Dear All ,
Below is a letter I have drafted to send to Elizabeth Broderick, and also intend forwarding to various politicians and the media for possible publication.
I would value any thoughts or comments , and any advice on errors.
If any of you would like to be signatories to the letter, please also send me details of what signature block you would like me to use ( I can amend the “I” to “We” in the letter)
with good wishes
Dear Ms. Broderick
As the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner it would be reasonable to assume that you should be identifying and attempting to address all overt instances in Australia where individuals are discriminated against solely on the basis of their sex or gender. However looking at your activities and achievements as evidenced on you web site, it can only be concluded that either, you see your role as one of advocacy only for the perceived inequalities faced by women, or that you believe inequality and discrimination does not affect men and boys in our society.
In you’re advocacy for women you seem to believe (when it suits you) that equality of outcome is the primary concern rather than equality of opportunity and that individual choice bears no relevance to the former. Further you seem to confuse the concepts of equality and equity. It is a biological impossibility for men and women to be equal when they are genetically different, however it is possible for there to be equity in opportunity, rights and choice for both men and women, this being the hallmark of an egalitarian society.
Mr. Broderick, I ask you to consider and respond to the following:
One of your well-publicised causes is that of increasing female representation on company boards, with a goal of parity representation and a call for the legislation of quotas to achieve this. Any career driven women who aspires to a company board position should certainly have the opportunity of appointment and not face any discrimination simply on the basis of her gender. She should however compete equally with others of either gender who have the same aspiration. As a comparison however, please consider some of the occupations at the bottom of the status list, the “dirty and dangerous occupations,” which have the highest rates of occupational deaths (men accounted for 93% of workplace fatalities in Australia in 2009-2010). Should you not also be advocating for equality of representation in these jobs? Certainly some women are now choosing to enter these occupations, should we not by your logic have quotas and campaigns to see women equally represented? Perhaps this is a situation in which you consider individual women’s choice negates the goal of parity or “equality” of representation?
Family Violence and Child Abuse
Another area of you’re highly visible advocacy for Women is in the sphere of Family Violence. Family violence has broad and varying definitions, and elements of it, are as you know also referred to as domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse and elder abuse. “Family” can mean many differing things these days but consider the prototype nuclear family with a father, mother and children. In this situation violence can be perpetrated by a man against a women, a woman against a man, mutual or reciprocal violence by both, violence by a parent (female or male individually or jointly) against a child, violence by a child against a parent (often in the form of elder abuse), or violence between siblings. Violence within families links into experiences of violence within the broader community and has the same multifactorial gender inclusive social determinants. Given your advocacy only for “Violence against Women and their Children” and support the National Councils, Time for Action plan http://www.facs.gov.au/sa/women/pubs/violence/np_time_for_action/national_plan/Documents/The_Plan.pdf
, one must wonder if you are even aware of the level of violence faced by men in domestic and other spheres, or the amount of that violence that is perpetrated against men and children by women?
You are publicly on record misrepresenting the facts and falsely claiming the 1 in 3 women in Australia will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwYTf_XrL_o ), (when in fact this statistic relates to all forms of violence suffered by women not just domestic violence), I would like to draw your attention to reputable data, on violence and it’s perpetration. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 4906.0 – Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (Reissue), shows the larger picture on violence for both women and men.
Violence experienced since the age of 15:
• 29% (2,243,600) of women experienced physical assault
• 41% (3,031,800) of men experienced physical assault
• 17% (1,293,100) of women experienced sexual assault
• 4.8% (362,400) of men experienced sexual assault
In the 12 month data prior to the ABS survey:
• 4.7% (363,000) of women experienced physical violence
• 10% (779,800) of men experienced physical violence
• 1.6% (126,100) of women experienced sexual violence
• 0.6% (46,700) of men experienced sexual violence
Of these numbers:
• 79,500 men experienced physical assault by a female perpetrator
• 195,300 women experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator
The One in Three campaign website contains further information on male victims of family violence, and documentation demonstrating that one in three victims of family violence is male. www.oneinthree.com.au
Recent data on the gender of perpetrators of child abuse in Australia is difficult to access, because from the later 1990’s the gender of perpetrators has not routinely been reported or promulgated by official sources despite the extensive records kept by police, child protective services and the criminal justice system, the reason for such an omission is open to speculation. Given that data prior to the late 1990’s in Australia and reliable data from other similar western nations shows that the majority of perpetrators of child abuse are women and the highest risk for abuse of a child is at the hands of a mother in single parent household, or by a biological mothers subsequent partner it is not unreasonable to assume that the concealing of such data from the Australian public is an ideologically based misrepresentation, all the more reprehensible because it detracts from the ability of government and social services to effectively ensure the safety of Australia’s greatest asset, our children.
Consider the data obtained under freedom of information request from Department of Child Protection in Western Australia which shows that the number of mothers believed responsible for “substantiated maltreatment” during the period 2005-6 to 2007-8 rose from 312 to 427. In the same period the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155. Women made up 57% of perpetrators of substantiated cases of child maltreatment in 2007-08. Compared with fathers, mothers were responsible for 95% of neglect cases, 68% of emotional/psychological abuse cases, 53% of physical abuse cases and 13% of sexual abuse cases. Overall, mothers were three times as likely as fathers to abuse their children.
So in light of this data from reputable Australian sources how is it possible that our national Sex Discrimination Commissioner is fully supportive of the gender biased “plan” which aims to address violence toward only one demographic women, and does so in a way that is clearly discriminatory toward another demographic men, rather than call for a more gender inclusive plan to help stop all types of family violence and violence in general. The most ominous recommendations from The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children are the proposals to introduce gendered laws that will legislate different treatment of men based solely on their gender, surely this is something a sex discrimination commissioner should oppose? Additionally why does our Sex Discrimination Commissioner, not advocate for the protection of our children? Whilst child protection is implied in the title of “The Plan” (where children are seen as the “possessions” of women) abuse of children occurs most often at the hands of women. Protection of children from this abuse and abuse in general is not significantly addressed in a plan to reduce violence against women and their children.
United Nations Declarations affirm the rights of children to have ongoing and meaningful relationships with both parents, yet in Australia fathers and children are routinely denied this basic human right through entrenched gender bias in our legal system and the Family Court. Domestic violence protection orders obtained on the basis of false or trivial accusations are routinely granted (without need for credible evidence or due process) and used by women to alienate fathers and children and set a precedent for award of residency to the mother, as during the delay in these matters being addressed in court residency with the mother has become the established norm for the children and the courts are reluctant to change this. Whilst this type of legalised abuse mainly affects fathers and children, there is a growing number of mothers who have been treated in a similar unjust manner, where the husband had legal tactical advice early enough to get in first with a false accusation of violence against the mother.
In a society that values gender equity, surely children should be allowed their right to ongoing relationships with both their mother and father after separation or divorce? Rebuttable equal shared parenting should be the foundation of residency of children post separation and the 2006 Family Law reforms were a step toward achieving this truly egalitarian ideal. However even after these reforms were introduced women continued to be overwhelming favored in the award of residency of children by the family court. In 2008/2009 residency for “a majority of the time” was still awarded to the mother in 59% of contested cases, but to the father in only 18% of contested cases.
There is overwhelming evidence that children thrive and have better social and educational outcomes when both parents are involved in their lives. This is a human rights and children’s rights issue that our sex discrimination commissioner should be visibly championing.
There is several decades of data showing that boys are falling behind in an increasingly feminised education system with these trends continuing to be evident in the ongoing NAPLAN data collection. The proportion of young men enrolling in and graduating from tertiary education courses continues to decline. In 2009 of the 175,070 domestic students completing a tertiary degree 60% were female and only 40% were male, and in 2010 of the students commencing tertiary study 56.2% were female. http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Publications/HEStatistics/Publications/Pages/Students.aspx
Why does our sex discrimination commissioner appear unconcerned about this gender inequality and why is she not working to redress the situation and improve educational opportunities for our boys and young men?
Health inequalities affecting men have finally gained some recognition with the federal government producing the first Men’s Health Policy in 2010. Male life expectancy continues to trail that of women by approximately 5 years. Suicide rates, long recognised as an indicator of social cohesiveness, are 3 times greater for Australian men compared with women. Men continue to face inequalities of access to health services and funding for male specific diseases trails spending on female specific health issues.
These are but a few of the issues where men, boys and children are suffering because of entrenched anti male sexism in our society. I am not arguing that their does not also exist entrenched anti-female sexism is some areas or that this should not be addressed, but rather the irony and intrinsic unfairness of a commissioner who should be addressing sexism in all its varieties, being sexist by predominantly addressing the concerns of women.
Ms. Broderick, I invite you to redress this deficiency, by speaking up for sexism in all it forms, and showing some concern and activism for men and boys. You might consider becoming an Ambassador for International Men’s Day, or supporting the introduction of a UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Men? You might even consider advocating for the introduction federal and state based Office’s for Men with Mister’s for Men and Boys? But please commissioner do something to demonstrate that you oppose sexism against men and boys, not just against women.
Dr Greg Canning