If you happen to be a woman living in Australia, now is the time to get angry. Not just alert or alarmed, but truly angry.
You need to be furious because Australia’s political system is starting to turn against us.
Politicians have turned a blind eye to women’s concerns for years – like low wages and high murder rates – but in recent times they’ve begun to champion changes to laws that will actually hurt the nation’s women.
Look at the recent debate over the New South Wales government’s attempts to decriminalise abortion in that state. No-one who’s gone through the procedure would suggest it’s a lazy alternative to birth control, an easy path to revenge after a failed relationship, or a flippant lifestyle choice. For many women it’s an emotionally and physically wrenching ordeal.
Yet the politicians who are resisting easier access to abortions for Australian women are acting as if we will treat terminations like getting a manicure. As if.
Preventing safe and legal access to abortions is harmful to women. It’s also a way of taking power away from women over what they choose to do with their bodies. This is the complete opposite of what modern society has been trying to do for decades – namely ensure that women have the same rights as men.
Most women will admit this endeavour is a work in progress. We know that in the boardroom, the bank manager’s office and even at the kitchen table, women often have less rights and power than men.
This struggle for equality is hard enough without politicians trying to drag the progress of women backwards to satisfy their needs to be morally superior.
Or to air their grievances and seek retribution, as seems to be the case with the latest political assault on women that was initiated this week by establishing a parliamentary inquiry into the family law system.
Let’s be clear about why Pauline Hanson wanted this inquiry so badly. According to the senator, two of her sons have been treated badly by the system, with at least one accused by his ex-partner of abuse and subject to a domestic violence order.
Based on her sons’ experiences and complaints by an unknown number of others, the senator has declared that women lie about domestic violence to get better outcomes in the Family Court and that the system is rigged against fathers.
This is despite two glaring facts. Firstly, domestic violence is real and it is widespread in Australia. On average, one woman a week is killed by her current or former partner. Senator Hanson counters this statistic with the claim from men’s rights groups that 21 men suicide each week due to family breakdown and child custody issues.
There is no basis for this claim. No data is collected on the causes of suicide. It is fake news.
Nor is the family law system weighted in favour of mothers. Jess Hill, the author of an extensive report into Australia’s domestic violence epidemic, wrote this week in response to the announcement of Senator Hanson’s inquiry that the family law system is indeed broken, but that it is almost blind to domestic violence and family abuse.
Not only are Australian women being let down by the current family law system, so are the children who are forced into custody arrangements that allow the abuse to continue.
The last thing these women need is to be hectored and harangued by the two politicians who’ve been placed in charge of this politically-sanctioned inquisition.
The inquiry chair is one of Tony Abbott’s remaining lieutenants, the deeply conservative Kevin Andrews, who is completely opposed to divorce.
And Senator Hanson will be the deputy chair, leaving no rock unturned and no witness untrammelled in the crusade to expose the hussies who rort the family law system to get away from the men who only give them the occasional backhander or broken bone when their woman steps out of line.
Senator Hanson’s motivations are clear, and so is her intent. Scott Morrison may think he’s thrown her a sop by allowing the inquiry, but he’s opened a Pandora’s Box.
The poster girl of the men’s rights groups will insist that its recommendations reflect her view of the world. She’ll extort the PM into implementing the recommendations that will shift power to men in family law disputes.
Such changes will not only harm women, it will harm their children too.
There will be no point despairing once it is done. Now is the time to be angry, if not for yourself then for your mother, sisters, daughters and granddaughters.
If we don’t speak up and fight back, the political system will continue its attacks on Australian women.