The Challenge of Gender Equality in the Women's Safety Strategy Policy (2002) in Victoria, Australia

El-Murr, Alissar
December 2013
Kadin/Woman 2000;Dec2013, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p55
Academic Journal
This paper explores the use of language in the Women's Safety Strategy: A Policy Framework document (2002), which outlined the five-year Victorian State Government initiative to incorporate a public health approach in policies to reduce violence against women (VAW). The Women's Safety Strategy (WSS) is an important document in the recent history of Victoria as it is an early example of how policy-making communities first combined a public health, or ecological, approach with a more traditional punitive treatment of VAW prevention. It is a combination that still has traction today, with the implementation of primary prevention policies working alongside the criminal justice aspects of violence management. The WSS stated throughout that gender inequality, from institutional to familial, is one of the major underlying causes of VAW, however it is my argument that the underlying discourse of the Strategy remained one in which the answer will be found in traditional, punitively-focused policy responses to violence against women. This argument is built on a method of critical discourse analysis that draws on the work of Foucault (1972) to focus on the way language functions to construct and re-construct power dynamics. In analysing statements and themes found in that document, I found that the dominant discourse in the Strategy is one of a rigid gender binary, and biologically determined sex-roles, used as both a way to explain the problem of VAW in Victoria, and to validate the appropriateness of the proposed solution. In conclusion, I ask: how can we better talk about VAW in policy?


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