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Editorial Violence against women is embedded in capitalist culture – we must challenge it

IT’S not often that the Morning Star takes a speech by a member of the royal family as the starting point for the day’s editorial comment.

Despite our longstanding support for a socialist republic with a democratically elected head of state, we make an exception today for Wednesday’s speech by the “Duchess of Cornwall” to the Women of the World Foundation.

Forget for a moment her ridiculous title, the former Camilla Parker Bowles delivered a powerful speech on one of society’s most important problems.

She highlighted the deep and continuing scar on our society that is male violence against women, pointing out that 144,000 women were the objects of rape or attempted rape last year, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. This equates to 16 serious sexual assaults every hour.

More than 200 women in Britain are murdered by men every year — four every week — although men also murder three times as many male victims.

Male violence is clearly at the core of this terrible blight on our society, although the duchess was at pains to say that not all men should be held responsible for sexual violence. Nor are they all guilty of violent assaults in general.

But she was right to insist that all men must be part of the effort to tackle the problem of male violence against women.

She also raised the knotty question of why the tendency to violence against women — and by extension against men and children as well — is significantly more pronounced among men.

Biological factors may form at least part of the explanation.

But the duchess emphasised the impact of nurture rather than narture, telling her audience that “rapists are not born, they are constructed.” And, she added, “it takes an entire community — male and female — to dismantle the lies, words and actions that foster a culture in which sexual assault is seen as normal, and in which it shames the victim.”

What she did not say was how this culture is created and sustained in modern society, and by whom.

The repugnant truth is that violence against women is commodified as mass entertainment by the giant companies that dominate the mass media. Too many books, magazines, films, television programmes and social media channels revel in the rape and murder of women, to the profit of those who produce them.

Advertisements are replete with sexualised images of women and girls.

This is not to call for sweeping censorship of reportage and drama. But so often, the coverage and portrayal of violence is salacious and gratuitous, while advertising is ubiquitous.

Restraint and education must be at the heart of the mighty campaign needed to challenge this culture and the attitudes that underpin it — enforced by militant campaigning with women to the fore.

But what is also vital is the analysis that locates the general problem of violence and the specific one of sexual violence in our class-divided society.

The links between poverty and domestic violence, for example, are well documented. The impact of public spending cuts on crime prevention, victim support and safety in our streets and on public transport is less understood or acknowledged.

Capitalism will never prioritise women’s rights and safety over the maximisation of corporate profit, but reforms can be won through unity and struggle.

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