Editorial: Women’s Rights

By Right Now

Right Now’s September 2012 content is focused on the theme of Women’s Rights.

Women’s Rights, gender equality, equal pay. These concepts might be thought by many to be a reality. While great strides have been made over the decades, much remains to be done. One can start, for example, with a consideration of representations of women in media and film. Or, consider Josie Swords’ reflection on what it means to be a feminist in 2012 (and beyond). Or the role and success of legal frameworks in promoting women’s rights, such as in Associate Professor Beth Gaze’s article on the current legal requirements to provide equal employment opportunity for women in the private sector.

What about cultivating a living, breathing culture of human rights?” asks Sydney producer Michelle Kotevski. “Perhaps this is where theatre is more powerful than a framework or legislation. Perhaps theatre is much better at engendering and tending to what we will always need – empathy and care.” Michelle is currently producing The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe, based on the personal stories of four African refugee women living in Sydney. Meanwhile, Emma Kerins suggests the London Olympics were a milestone for women in sport – a cultural step of some importance.

In other articles, David Donaldson offers “A Beginners Guide to Parental Leave in Australia”; Lydia Jebakumar reveals mandatory detention of women and children arriving in Australia unauthorised remains the norm, despite official policy, but argues it should be a “last resort”; and Holly Kendall explains the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and Australia two outdated objections (or more technically “reservations”) to it.

Looking beyond our shores, Claire Varley gives us a first-hand account of the development of equality in the Pacific islands, the “strong women” she has met, and what Australia is doing to help. Right Now’s Chloé Potvin interviews Executive Director at UN Women Australia, Julie McKay, on the challenges facing women in Australia and the Pacific region. Meanwhile, Sylvia Frain presents a photo essay on women’s vocational training in Timor-Leste. Natalie Sambhi outlines a rights-based approach to women in combat roles in the Australian Defence Force.

Looking again more widely, Zoya Patel considers the need for a nuanced approach to what it means to wear a hijab or burqa, beyond ‘a straight “oppressed/not oppressed”‘ view.

In perhaps the most vexed issue associated with women’s rights, we have contributions on both the present state of abortion law and an opinion on cultural shaming that surrounds abortion by Dr Leslie Cannold.

Considerations of sex and sexuality throw up a number of concerning realities. Ellyse Borghi reveals the facts and legal framework on sex trafficking in Australia; while Karen Pickering tells her personal story of abuse in the service of the “bigger story” of apprehensions of rape and the stigmatisation of victims of sexual assaults. Meanwhile, Emily Zoey Baker’s poem, “We Were Told It Was A Party” explores the rhetoric and consequences of rape culture.

Finally, to an area that reveals the contested nature of feminism – sex work. David Donaldson looks at contrasting laws on sex work that give rise to a number of important questions (for you to answer in our forum).

For reviews of all of Right Now’s recent themes click on the editorials below:

August 2012: The Environment and Human Rights

July 2012: Children and Youth

June 2012: Indigenous People and Human Rights

April-May 2012: Human Rights and Arts Film Festival

March 2012: Race and Discrimination

February 2012:  Prisoner’s Rights

December 2011: Housing


Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.