Background and Introduction
The research paper is going to delve into the health issues that women face from all around the world, specifically Australia. Violence against women still remains one of the serious and pervasive issues that affect individuals, communities, and also the social fabrics of the societies that people live in. A look at the Australian population reveals that one in every three women aged above 15 years experience a form of physical assault, while over half of all women in Australia have had at least one physical or sexual assault in their life. The intimate violence that occurs in marriages is the main contributor to death, illness and disability causes reported among the Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years. It is estimated that most of this violence occurs in homes among the married couples with the males being aggressive towards their partners, hence causing serious injuries to the women (Vic Health 2009, p.16).
There are also other types of violence that women receive outside marriage, such as violence by the family member, a family friend, a colleague at work, an acquaintance, or even a stranger. This type of men’s violence towards women occurs across all the society, both in the private and the public sector. This type of violence is widespread, systematic, and it is also culturally entrenched; hence, it is being recognized as the world’s most pervasive human rights violation.
Violence against women simply means any type of act of gender-based violence that may result in, or likely to cause, a physical, sexual or the psychological harm or some suffering to the woman, including acts of threats, coercion or the arbitrary deprivation of the liberty, may it be in public or the private life (Open Element 1995, p. 32).
Violence against women has some significant and often devastating consequences to the victims, which may include homicides, suicides, poverty; social, mental, and physical health problems. In the research conducted in 2009, the economic cost of men’s violence against women and also their children was estimated to be around $13.6 billion in Australia alone, a figure that was quite alarming. The causes of violence against women are quite complex, and it is agreed by many people that this violence causes some type of gender inequality. It is stated that violence against women is a form of crucial social mechanism in which women are forced into subordinate positions as compared to the men (Marcus 2007, p. 27).
Impacts of Gender Violence
The violence that women receive has impacts on their physical and the mental well-being. It brings about immense suffering, destroys families, damages the community’s image, and also reduces the opportunity for the victim to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. This fear alone may alter the woman’s behaviour, affect her feelings of personal safety negatively, hence limiting her abilities in participating fully in social activities, as compared to men. When it comes to the intimate partner type of violence, it leads to some physical health effects that may eventually contribute to death, disabilities, and also illnesses among the Victorian women aged below 45 years. The long-term effects of the physical type of violence include pain and fatigue, allergies and respiratory disorder problems, breast cancer, eyesight problems, and even hearing difficulties. In addition to this, the women who are victims of the intimate partner violence also have the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections and also, to some extent, experience miscarriages, as compared to those women who do not experience such types of violence (The National Council 2007, p. 12).
Violence also increases the chances of victims having poor mental health and wellbeing. The women who have experienced gender violence suffer from poor mental health effects, such as depression and anxiety. Some studies done around the Melbourne area indicate that such women are diagnosed with depression. Violence against women may also result in suicide, psychiatric disorders, phobias, and also post-traumatic stress disorders. The studies conducted in 2005 on the Victorian women found that:
i) Approximately one in every three victims of sexual assault experienced some changes in their eating/sleeping habits, home security, and leisure activities. This was a result of the fears or the injuries caused by violence against them.
ii) Approximately one in every five women victims of gender violence have changed their work or study routines because of the injuries inflicted on them by the incident (Mouzos 2004, p.11).
The Current Situation and Mechanism to Reduce Violence against Women
The women who face gender violence from their spouses end up being victimized with the children too and often move out in search of refuge. They become homeless, which means the loss of the family home, independence, networks, social support, and resources for schooling of the children. The research conducted by FACHSIA between 2005 and 2006, among the people living in Melbourne state (Victoria city), found that women account for 42 per cent of the total population in search of accommodation, while a 60 per cent of these women had run out of their violent spouses at their original family homes. The same research firm had earlier done research on the total number of women seeking accommodation in the period between 2003 and 2004, whereby it reported 33 per cent of the women population to have run away from their male spouses. This figure is almost double, hence showing the aggravating situation with gender-based violence against women. In light of this, some measures have to be put in place to reduce such cases (Vic Health 2004, p. 13).
Because of the alarming rise in cases of gender violence, the Victorian Law Reform Commission conducted some family violence project in 2008. The results came up with a strict recommendation to protect the victims. According to the results, in case where a partner is violent, he should be the one to leave the family, but not the victim. The Commonwealth Office that deals with the women’s issues has also identified two types of assistance to the women who are victims of domestic violence. Such assistance is:
i) Provision of the safe, secure and affordable housing to the women victims of gender violence, and
ii) Provision of the individualized and open-ended assistance, which includes the outreach services that shield the women and their children from the violent world for as long as they are in need for it (Community Indicators 2004, p. 23).
The Possible Options for the Future Outcome
Justice and the legal system are one of the main causes for the increased gender violence against women. It is reported that the Melbourne state legal system discourages women from seeking legal interventions. The legal system here requires that women should produce evidence and be cross-examined before they can be helped. This issue exacerbates many women’s feelings of abuse. Another factor that aggravates the issue is that the perpetrators of sexual assaults that married women may report are not always convicted. However, only around three per cent of the sexual cases reported are determined through cross-examination, especially in the young girls (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2005, p. 28).
The judicial system and the government also do not provide people with the protection they require. The evidence for this is seen in the report conducted on the Melbourne state administration. The Safety Survey indicated that 20 per cent of the women that were going to report the violence cases had already received some restraining orders earlier, and were still being victimized since no effective action was taken. The study also raised some concerns on the time needed for such cases to reach courts, save for the disrespectful and damaging treatment that these women end up receiving in courts. This demoralizes many women from seeking justice since they fear being victimized further. The study also goes ahead to state that when the government puts more emphasis on protecting women, especially through reforming the justice system and ensuring harsh penalties to perpetrators, the figures of reported violence cases will undoubtedly reduce to nearly 2 per cent in ten years to come (Department of Health and Aging 2009, p. 19).
Serious reforms have to be implemented by the Australian government in their judicial systems. This will ensure justice is fully delivered to the victims and, as a result, the violent partner will be punished for his actions. Some fear will also be inflicted on the perpetrators since they might shy away from the harsh penalties awaiting them in courts. The research done on Melbourne city (Victoria State) also found out that there were no free, legal aids present for women, which in turn made women shy away from courts due to the high fees of the legal system. It, therefore, is recommended that the Australian government should at least introduce some legal aids in the system to help the poor women get justice.
Finally, new policies, legislations, and strategies ought to be put in place to ensure there is sustainable housing for women and children. The evidence for this is seen in a small research conducted in the Victorian families that showed that staying in their respective homes undoubtedly helped the women in planning and making more considered choices concerning their futures. Thus, the main issue in providing more policies is to ensure that women maintain their homes for as long as possible.
Another recommendation that the government needs to review is the violence law act. This act should explicitly include the exclusion order that serves as a possible intervention against the gender-based cases that occur in families. After all these measures are put in place and become the law, it is estimated that there will be less than 1 per cent of the gender-based reported cases in the near future.