The John Laws skirt saga: why do successful women defend sexism?

This week the great relic announced in his ancient, gravel tones the women he employs must wear skirts to work to please him.

Yet there they were, excusing Laws’ sexist ways and tone and skirt diktat on TV. “He’s actually a really good, decent man,” Rowe said.

No, he’s not – he’s someone treating professional work colleagues as objects of decoration.

“He’s a lovely man,” Buttrose echoed.

This is what Laws says of ogling his female staff: “I love them to look feminine. A skirt on a beautiful body is a very, very feminine thing.”

That’s not lovely. That’s the exploitation of a power dynamic in which workers are obliged to service the skeezy pleasure of the boss on top of doing their day job. Australian law says sexual harassment is not on, and the community knows anything close to sexually questionable behaviour at work is not on.

This Easter, it’s the Catholic Church that needs redemption

Jesus said that children are special, that they are holy. The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse says that there have been nearly 4,500 reported cases of alleged abuse of children in Catholic institutions over the past 35 years. No doubt many more remain unreported.

I know I am not alone among Australian Catholics in finding it near impossible to reconcile these despicable statistics with the church’s claim to be a special mediator of God’s grace and a place that I should attend in order to understand more deeply God’s love.

I know because my fellow Catholics talk to me about these issues. I know because I can look around Catholic parishes and see the declining attendance.

An Activist Hails Law Criminalizing Purchase of Sex in Ireland

On March 27, the Sexual Offences Act finally passed into Irish law. The activists involved in its passage, including myself, had pressed for this law for anything between six and 10 years.

Here I was, on my way to deliver a public speech about the new dawn of women’s rights in our country, on International Women’s Day, and all I could think about was the women who were dead because they had no rights, or because their rights were seen not to matter, or, more to the point, because the rights of men to unfettered sexual access to women’s bodies had been tacitly approved for so many centuries in my country that we’ll never be able to count our women and girls who’ve died in the service of it.

We hear, over and over, about the shockingly high homicide rate in prostitution, and we should be shocked at a homicide rate that’s been recorded at 40 times the national average, but the truth is that homicide deaths in prostitution are only the tip of the iceberg. Suicide has also been found to be a significant consequence of prostitution, and every death in my circle was a result of drug overdose, cirrhosis of the liver or cervical cancer. There is also, of course, HIV. These ways that prostituted women die, taken together, outstrip the homicide rate by many, many times.

Human Rights Commission accused of ‘betraying’ students who participated in sexual assault survey

A survey of thousands is set to unveil widespread instances of sexual harassment on campuses but students will not find out how bad the problem is on their campus after the Australian Human Rights Commission said it would not publicly release data on individual universities.

The decision to not publicly release each university’s incident figures comes despite many university leaders acknowledging privately that releasing such data would be the most effective catalyst for change. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said she would”encourage universities to release their own figures”.

A soldier and a sex worker walk into a therapist’s office. Who’s more likely to have PTSD?

While about 5-12% of Australian military personnel who have experienced active service have PTSD at any one time, this is about the same (10%) as rates for police, ambulance personnel, firefighters and other rescue workers. And while these rates are significant, they are not vastly different to rates in the general Australian population (8% of women and 5% of men).

PTSD is actually most common in populations with a high exposure to forms of complex trauma. This involves multiple, chronic and deliberately inflicted interpersonal traumas (physical and sexual abuse and assaults, emotional abuse, neglect, persecution and torture).

Sex workers, women fleeing domestic violence, survivors of childhood abuse and Indigenous Australians are far more likely to have experienced this complex trauma. In these groups, between 40% and 55% are affected by PTSD.

Parramatta Girls Home should be turned into a women’s refuge, victims say

Former inmates of the notorious Parramatta Girls Home in Sydney’s west are fighting to turn parts of the site into a hub for services helping women fleeing domestic violence.

Domestic violence services in Western Sydney say more providers are desperately needed to ease the pressure they are under, with the region recording some of the highest rates of domestic violence in Australia.

At this stage, part of the Parramatta Girls Home site has been earmarked for the development of apartments but it is understood the plan is yet to be finalised.


Woman ‘trapped in loveless marriage’ after judges refuse divorce

A woman says she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after senior judges refused to allow her to divorce her husband of 40 years on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.

The highly unusual ruling by the court of appeal triggered calls from divorce lawyers for parliament to introduce “no fault” divorce and warnings that the decision would force separating couples to make more aggressive allegations to justify marital breakdown.

Dissent in White Ribbon Starts to Bite

Several White Ribbon members who attended the IWD forum in Hobart last week expressed concerns about White Ribbon’s current resistance to confronting male violence to women in the sex trade. White Ribbon Australia continues to fall behind on best practice policy on stopping all violence to women.

In keeping with the spirit of International Women’s Day, it is time for White Ribbon Australia to stand in solidarity with their international partners who have joined the growing global movement against the global sex-trade and in support Nordic Model laws on prostitution.

Why can’t we just make up?: On the hypocrisy of transactivism in the prison abolition movement

NPIP is founded on the recognition that the prison system does not to function primarily in the interest of public safety, as we are lead to believe. Reoffending rates are high, and prisons are violent, not rehabilitative, institutions. They do not reduce crime rates – if that was their purpose, indigenous women would not be incarcerated at a higher rate than any other demographic.

Yet recently, NPIP’s activism has focused heavily – disproportionately, even – on transgender inmates. In 2015, NPIP successfully campaigned to move Jade Follett, a male who identifies as transgender, into a women’s prison after he was sentenced to 21 months for stabbing – it took just hours for the government to comply. Several NPIP spokespeople identify as trans themselves, and four of their abolitionist demands are specific to incarcerated people who identify as trans.

These demands seem to supersede any concerns NPIP has for women either in or outside of prisons. For instance, NPIP calls for the government to “End the practice of incarcerating trans people”, while it makes no mention of ending the incarceration of women, even though men who identify as transgender still exhibit the same pattern of violence against women as the general male population, and women commit only a fraction of all violent crime.

NPIP also calls on the government to “Allow for the immediate placement of all trans prisoners in a prison of their choosing”, with no concern for how this might affect women in (overcrowded) women’s prisons. Should Alex Aleti Seu, who committed sexual assault repeatedly, really have access to a women’s prison? Surely women in prison for “crimes” like benefit fraud should not be lumped with the extra punishment of sharing space with male sex offenders like Seu – just because those males might prefer it?