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Speech: International Women's Day and Hannah Clarke

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 25 Feb 2020

International Women's Day this year will be celebrated around the world on Friday 6 March. But, to be honest, I don't feel like celebrating. For me, International Women's Day 2020 will always be marked by the indelible horror and drowning sorrow of what was done to Hannah Clarke and her three children, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey. Shamefully, their story was overshadowed by the man who mercilessly killed them. Media headlines portrayed the murdered as someone who was suffering, used passive language as if the car caught on fire through some bizarre coincidence and completely erased the identity of Hannah Clarke by focusing their attention on the murderer's life and his so-called achievements. This was not some random incident of a car catching fire. This was a man who planned and methodically—brutally—burned his former partner, Hannah Clarke, and their three children to death.

A senior officer from the Queensland police on the case asked us to keep a so-called open mind about the murders, questioning whether the horrific violence was 'an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues he's suffered'. The officer did apologise, but frankly that's not good enough. Let's be clear: violence against women is a choice made by some men, and they alone are responsible for it. But you wouldn't know that from the media reporting, which not only minimised the violence but somehow tried to enact the perpetrator as an equally suffering man. This is where the core of the problem lies: it's victim blaming; it's not believing women; it's justifying murder; it's patriarchy; and it's gendered power. It is what Jess Hill documents in her incredible book See what you made me do. She writes about domestic abuse, some of the most frightening experiences which cannot captured on a charge sheet or understood by a judge. 'It's not a crime to convince her that she's worthless,' she writes, 'It's not a crime to gaslight or break her sense of what's real.'

What happened is not a husband or father 'driven too far'; what happened is humiliated fury unleashed at the loss of control by the perpetrator. It happens because in Australia violence against women and children does not get the serious attention, the funding and the focus on changing attitudes that it needs. This kind of violence happens repeatedly because there are apologists for toxic masculinity. There are people out there and in here who will validate this violence. As a society, we give Orders of Australia to people like Bettina Arndt who blame victims, condone toxic masculinity and perpetuate the idea that men have the right to control their partners.

A Griffith University poster that emphasised the right of people to say no to sex, to have their own friends and to have space away from their partner angered Ms Arndt, who tweeted: 'Young women at Griffith University are being taught to be uncaring, demanding bitches.' This is not just abhorrent and despicable; it is also dangerous. For men's violence against women to end, we need zero tolerance of misogyny, sexism, harassment, control and abuse. There is absolutely no excuse for police or the justice system in minimising violence or questioning the victims as if their story is not real. How long will we continue to do this? Enough is enough.

Hannah Clarke had an AVO against her murderer. Child safety were aware of past incidents of violence perpetuated by the man who incinerated their children. The terror that they must have felt in those final moments before their deaths should shake us to our cores. Instead, it brought out apologists.

The system failed Hannah and her three small children. The system fails women every day. In Australia, one woman is murdered every week, 61 women were killed in 2019 and nine have already been murdered this year. This International Women's Day, let's start a revolution to end misogyny, to end violence against women and their children, to stop these murders by men and to do everything we can to change a culture of violence that is fuelled by patriarchy, power and privilege.

HANSARD LINK

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