Increasing the prevalence of eliminative gender-based violence programs in ASEAN and Australia

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.

Increasing the prevalence of eliminative gender-based violence programs within educational institutions, communities and workplaces of ASEAN and Australia

The far-reaching and entrenched issue of gender-based violence in ASEAN and Australia requires a far-reaching and multi-dimensional solution centred on inclusive education present within all sects of society with a particular emphasis on Men and Boys. Here it is argued that a mitigating force against the endemic issue of gender-based violence in ASEAN and Australia is to implement educational programs that incorporate multiple sects of society and communities to educate individuals on the issues, impacts and dangers of all forms of gender-based violence, discrimination, and oppression. We need to equip individuals such as parents, teachers, community leaders and law enforcement personnel with the skills to mitigate, provide pastoral care, and report cases of gender-based violence. 

The aim of these programs, presented in educational institutions from early education to universities and the workplace, would be to influence and mould male perspectives towards female and LGBTQIA+ individuals to a more inclusive, respectful and accommodating worldview away from what has traditionally been the norm particularly in environments where derogatory views or gender-based violence practices are re-enforced such as rural and remote areas of the region.

According to UN Women, 40 percent of women in Southeast Asia and 68 percent of women in the Pacific have experienced violence at the hands of their partners. In the Australian context, 1 in 5 women (1.7 million) have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, whilst 1 woman a week and 1 man a month are killed by a violent partner. These grotesque figures are not just a reflection of our societies but also of our lack of proactivity towards eradicating gender-based violence. 

Implementation of national and regional strategies are vital in tackling the issue of gender-based violence and efforts must not be left to civil society organisations alone. The facilitation of these educational programs must be a collaborative effort which include intergovernmental organisations such as ASEAN and the UN, national governments, state and provincial governments, schools, law enforcement and indigenous political structures to empower to indigenous agencies in rural and remote areas of ASEAN and Australia. 

The educational programs themselves would be constructed in varying formats and contain diverse yet relevant content depending on where they’re being administered. Specifically, the programs would consist of peer-to-peer discussions, expert lectures, survivor impact statements, scenario run-throughs, workshops and panel discussions provided in collaboration with law enforcement, parents, community leaders, teachers, students and workers of all genders and sexualities. The themes of these programs would primarily focus on the causes and consequences of gender-based violence with an emphasis on empowerment of both duty bearers such as teachers, parents, community leaders and law enforcement and young people. 

Men and boys need to have the appropriate technical capacity (knowledge, skills, and motivation) to handle, mediate and report gender-based violence whilst working to rid practices and environments that enforce such behaviour. Civil society groups such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Peace Women, Men Engage Alliance, UN Women and Promundo are all excellent groups working to rid gender-based violence from communities and would provide excellent frameworks and expertise for the implementation of these programs. Government-led frameworks such as ASEAN’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda would also be of great importance in facilitating these programs. 

The challenges of implementing said programs in the workplace would be far more monumental, though governments should look at implementing mandatory sessions on gender-based violence in a workplace context in various forms. For example, in-person training and online employment modules that are being implemented by many Australian universities to mitigate rampant sexual violence occurring in tertiary institutions, though this certainly should be more prevalent. 

Particularly within Australia, we are seeing the fallout and the much-needed discussion being had around gender-based violence and sexual harassment in workplaces at the highest levels of government. For the Australian government and the many ASEAN states who have been criticised for their lack of response towards issues of diversity and gender equality, being seen to assist and implement these programs, particularly in vulnerable sects of society such as regional and rural areas, would boost legitimacy both from their domestic populations and the broader international community. 

Though it is not a question of winning political favour, programmes and policies are critical for creating a more inclusive world that caters for the diversity of our region, protects human rights, contributes to the attainment of SDG 5 and puts a stop to the grotesque figures outlined earlier. As espoused by Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, and where the endemic level of gender-based violence endured by women within our region exists, it is apparent that education must be utilised to create the change required to end gender-based violence in ASEAN and Australia.

This article was written by Hamish Sneyd, edited by Nabila Aisyah, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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