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TENS of thousands marched in protest against sexual abuse, sex discrimination and violence against women in Australia today, demanding radical change and justice for victims.
Many of the women taking part in the protests wore black in a display of “strength and mourning” and chanted “we will not be silenced.”
In the Melbourne March for Justice rally, protesters carried a banner displaying the names of women killed in Australia in sex-based violence since 2008.
Two petitions demanding change were delivered to the government in Canberra as opposition leaders met protesters. A delegation refused a private meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his office, however.
Janine Hendry explained: “We’ve come to his front garden. We are 200 metres from his office and it’s not appropriate for us to meet behind closed doors, especially when we are talking about sexual assault, which does happen behind closed doors.”
The protests have been prompted by a number of sexual abuse scandals and alleged cover-ups in the higher echelons of government.
These include a rape allegation against Attorney General Christian Porter, who has lodged defamation proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over a news article reporting the alleged 1988 assault.
An unnamed former senior political adviser for Mr Morrison’s Liberal Party has also been accused of rape and sexual assault by a number of women.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds apologised “unreservedly” on Friday for failing to report a 2019 allegation of rape by former staff member Brittany Higgins against the unnamed Liberal Party member.
In February Ms Reynolds called her a “lying cow” in front of other colleagues but has denied she was referring to the rape allegations, insisting it was because Ms Higgins had complained about her treatment over the incident.
Addressing the Canberra rally, Ms Higgins said she hoped to bring about changes to workplace culture to “ensure the next generation of women can benefit from a safer and more equitable Australia.”
Both Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds are on sick leave.
Mr Morrison has had strong approval ratings due to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but recent polls show his LIberal Party trailing Labour by two points.
He insisted that he shared the concerns of the protesters and conceded that, while progress had been made, much more needed to be done.
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