UN Human Rights Council – 20th Session
Australian Statement for the Annual full-day discussion on Women's Human Rights: “Remedies and reparations for women who have
been subjected to violence”
25 June 2012
Australia condemns violence against women.
The Australian Government is committed to working to prevent and respond to violence against women and to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls. We strive to embody gender equality, and acknowledge that gender equality is key to the human rights of women. The widespread issue of violence against women and girls demands a global and coordinated response from all levels of society and cannot be answered by governments alone.
Domestically, the Australian Government works to ensure women in Australia who have experienced violence are presented with constructive options for remedies and reparations.
We have a number of mechanisms through which women who have experienced violence are supported. Work in this area is ongoing and a recent review by the Australian Law Reform Commission, called Commonwealth Laws and Family Violence, is informing our future policy advancement.
Australia acknowledges that the Panel’s proposal to examine out of court/administrative programs reflects the need for responses to be victim focused. However it is essential that this does not erode commitments to recognise and adequately deal with criminal behaviour of violence against women. It is important that both aspects work in tandem to ensure effective responses to women.
We note the Special Rapporteur’s findings that women should not just be returned to the same situation where the violence occurred in the first place, but that reparations be transformative and provide a constructive way forward for women and communities to recover from violence.
Since 1989, Australia’s refugee ‘women at risk’ program has helped to protect and resettle more than 11 000 vulnerable women and their children. In 2010–11, 759 visas (12.7 per cent) of the Refugee category were granted to Woman at Risk visa applicants.
The settlement program provides these women with both physical and psychosocial health support as well as education tuition, translating services, and general settlement support; including priority access to torture and trauma counselling services. After four years residence in Australia, refugees can apply for Australian citizenship.
Australia’s commitment also reaches out to our neighbouring communities such as those in Papua New Guinea. Our support has helped increase the number of new women village court magistrates recruited and trained in PNG, up from 10 in 2004 to more than 600 at the end of 2011. This will lead to better access to justice for women at the village level and possibly help mitigate the causes of violence against women. We also fund projects that address gender based and sexual violence for vulnerable Iraqi migrant women in Jordan and a Kenyan based project assisting refugee women and girl survivors of gender based violence.
In this context, we would find further comments from the panel on the issue of culturally sensitive reparations for women particularly interesting.