The recent murder of Stephanie Scott in Australia sparked renewed demands that the country confront its pervasive problem of violence against women. This week, Australian women raised awareness about violence against women on social media, many comparing men to a creature more commonly thought of as a threat — sharks. In the first 14 weeks of 2015, 31 women in Australia, including Scott, have been killed by men. That's more than two deaths per week. This statistic may not seem high in comparison to the U.S., where three women die each day because of domestic violence, but in relation to the two countries' populations (the U.S. has 300 million residents, while Australia has 23 million), both countries see high rates of violence against women.
According to a 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) report, intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability, and ill-health in Australian women between the ages of 15 and 44. The report says that on average, one Australian woman is killed by a partner each week, but that number has doubled in 2015.
Although Australia's statistics seem extreme, violence against women is a problem almost everywhere. The same WHO report says that 30 percent of women worldwide are affected by violence from a partner. While these numbers are staggeringly high in themselves, they only refer to domestic violence. Violence against women is a larger issue that encompasses domestic violence and violence from strangers, like Scott's murder.
Scott, a teacher, was murdered and her body set on fire days before her wedding; a school janitor has been charged with her murder. Women's groups wrote a letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urging him to respond to the "epidemic" of violence in Australia.
Australia's former governor-general, Dame Quentin Bryce, says that violence against women stems from cultural perceptions that women are less than men. She said to ABC earlier this month:
The truth is that domestic and family violence is caused by unequal distribution of power and resources between men and women. It's about the rigid gender roles and stereotypes that characterise our society — the culture and the attitude that support violence against women.
In the past, Abbott has said that men have the "right to demand" sex from women and that it would be "folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities, and interests are different for physiological reasons."
104 Australian women will by killed by men this year if the current rate of violence continues.