Women make up just over half of the Queensland population at 50.2 per cent, although the ratio of gender balance differs according to where people live across the state. Despite this, gender inequality persists across our communities.
Women still face significant barriers to full participation in the social, economic and cultural opportunities of Queensland society. Addressing gender inequality benefits everyone in the community.
Some significant areas of inequality include:
- the pay gap between men and women in Queensland is unacceptably high at 18 per cent
- women are less likely to be in positions of leadership (including boards of management)
- women are more likely to work in a narrow field of lower paid occupations
- women are primarily responsible for unpaid domestic work and caring for dependants
- women are the primary victims of domestic and family violence, sexual offences, and stalking.
The Queensland Women’s Strategy 2016-21 provides a framework for action to achieve gender equality in Queensland with a range of priority areas, including:
- Participation and leadership
- Economic security
- Health and wellbeing.
Queensland is home to the first peak body in Australia, Ending Violence Against Women Queensland (EVAWQ). It provides a united voice across all three areas of the women’s sector: Sexual violence, women’s health and Domestic and Family Violence.
Domestic and Family Violence
Domestic and family violence is internationally recognised as a fundamental violation of human rights; it is a distinctly gendered problem that disproportionately affects women and their children.
In Australia, Domestic and Family violence has gained prominence as a significant and unacceptable issue requiring urgent attention and action. A holistic approach is being undertaken at both national and state levels through campaigns, research, legislation, cultural change and policy and program initiatives. The statistics tell us, on average across Australia, one woman is murdered every week by a current or former partner, and that one-in-six women will experience physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner during their lifetime.
If you or someone you know is in fear or anxious about their partner – please call DVConnect 1800 811 811 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sexual Violence and Assault
One in five women have experienced sexual violence or assault since the age of 15, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Of all Australian women, 15 per cent had been sexually assaulted by a person they knew, since the age of 15 and 3.8 per cent had been sexually assaulted by a stranger.
Sexual violence is gender based, with the vast majority of people assaulted being women. Sexual violence needs to be viewed primarily as a social problem rather than an individual or medical problem. Responses to sexual violence need to beÂ holistic, individual and integrated and based on evidence.
Sexual assault can constitute any unwanted or forced sexual act or behaviour without a person’s informed consent. Sexual assault is closely linked with domestic and family violence and has significant impacts on women’s health and wellbeing. The state-wide 24-hour domestic violence hotline provides information specifically on sexual violence; as well as providing 24 hour counselling support.
The Counselling Notes Protect (CNP) service is a free legal service delivered by Legal Aid Queensland in partnership with Women’s Legal Service. CNP provides advice, assistance and representation under a new Queensland law, which protects the counselling records of victims of sexual assault or alleged sexual assault from being used in some courts.
Given that the majority of sexual violence against women is done by someone known to them, often in contexts where there is trust and familiarity, most go unreported and unconvicted.
A range of resources and research on sexual assault is collated by Ending Violence Against Women in Queensland.
The Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120 is a state-wide sexual assault phone line offering telephone support and counselling to anyone – women, men and young people – who have been sexually assaulted or abused, and for anyone who is concerned or suspects someone they care about might have been assaulted or abused.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity’. Women’s health needs to be viewed as substantially more than just the health of their reproductive systems.
A woman’s health is significantly shaped and impacted by both biology and gender. Gender, or ‘gender roles’ are culturally defined and deeply embedded in the legal, religious and systemic structures and norms within society. The Australian Womens Health Network articulates that gender relations are multi-dimensional, interweaving relationships of power, economic arrangements, emotional relaitonships, systems of communication and meaning.
More broadly; the social determinants of health can be described as (by the WHO) ‘the circumstances in which people (women) are born, grow up, live, work and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. These circumstances are in turn shaped by a wider set of forces: economics, social policies, and politics.’
All of this highlights the necessity of viewing women’s health outcomes through a gender and social lens. While women on average live longer than men, research shows they are more likely to spend that extra time living in poverty and suffering from a chronic and disabling illness. This is even worse among certain groups of women:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women live 17-20 years less than other Australian women
- women with a disability experience a high rate of poverty, are over-represented in institutional care, and experience difficulties in accessing health services
- refugee women have multiple complex health problems, including: chronic diseases, reproductive health issues, blood disorders such as anaemia, the physical and mental health consequences of rape and sexual assault, depression, anxiety and grief.
The clear links between domestic and family violence and poor physical and mental health has been consistently demonstrated through research; and given the prevalence of the experience of violence against women, this is a significant health issue for women. Domestic and family violence is also associated with physical injury, somatic disorders, chronic disorders, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, gynaecological issues and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Key principles that underpin Women’s health as defined by the Queensland Women’s Health Network are:
- encouraging women to take control of their bodies (based on a full range of information and access to appropriate health care)
- collaborative decision making between women and their health care providers (with women deciding for themselves what happens to their bodies)
- a social model of health (that takes account of more than just body parts and recognises the context of women’s lives, e.g. the influence of social factors such as housing and employment on health and wellbeing).