How to prevent violence against women

Domestic violence in Australia is on the rise. Women’s rights advocates are calling for a cultural shift away from the acceptance of domestic violence. Because, believe it or not: According to some surveys, one in five young men believed it was a right to hit a woman if they were drunk.

Support services for family and domestic violence:

  • 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria says we need to frame the deepening crisis in terms of power and justice.

The national average is a woman murdered every week by someone known to them.

All forms of violence against women are caused by the same factors, whether it occurs on the street or in the home and whether it’s perpetrated by a stranger or someone known.

  • One in three Australian women will experience physical violence.
  • Family violence is a key driver of 23 per cent of national homelessness in Australia.
  • It comprises 40 per cent of police time.
  • It’s a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases.
  • Violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year.

The common denominator in most of these cases is gender.

This is something deeply cultural—a part of our history deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. It’s like we’re fish but we don’t see the water.

International research shows that violence against women occurs in countries across the world to a greater or lesser extent depending upon some key factors:

  • Rigid adherence to gender stereotypes
  • The status of women compared to men
  • Our violence-supportive attitudes

Academically gender refers to social norms, the social expectations about the roles and rights of men and women in our society. Our expectations about men and women stem from a long cultural history and are essentially sexist.

Men who choose to use violence have hyper-masculine attitudes about their rights as men and the role and rights of women. They believe they have a right as men to behave this way and that it’s women who are to blame. Importantly, they see their partners and children as their possessions. That’s why we see so many women and children murdered as payback when women try to end a relationship.

A cultural aspect of how we define masculinity is that it is seen by many as something that has to be proved over and over. Men with hyper-masculine attitudes see it as critical that their masculinity isn’t doubted or challenged, which is why these attitudes are so problematic in the context of family violence. This is particularly so when women try to end a relationship and are made to pay. We would assess that about 50 per cent of the family violence the system deals with is post-separation violence, and it can go on for years.

This (the solution) isn’t about men being less than men. It’s about reshaping expectations of what it is to be a man, about shedding concepts of masculinity that have such a negative impact on us as a society, particularly when ‘being a bloke’ involves derogatory attitudes towards women. I think that can be another way in which masculinity can be reasserted or affirmed by some men—by engaging in disrespectful comments about or behaviours toward women when they are together. With the development of healthier interpretations of masculinity we’d see a range of benefits in terms of reducing street violence, rates of violence against young men and bullying.

There are many women who experience far higher rates of violence, and more extensive violence, than others: women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and women newly arrived to Australia. There’s a common myth that certain women seek out abusers as partners when the reality is that there are men who recognise there are few options for redress for certain women and take advantage of that fact.

So what would it take to deliver a just society?

At an individual level:

  1. We need zero tolerance of violence against women.
  1. We must understand violence against women as a choice.

This is not a sudden loss of temper or control. Many times it doesn’t even involve physical abuse. It’s usually experienced by women as a range of behaviours meant to intimidate and control. It’s a deliberate choice.

  1. We must understand these are everyday men.

So many women don’t recognise they’re in an abusive relationship until it’s reached crisis, especially if they’re not experiencing physical violence.

If we’re going to prevent murders, really it’s critical we start saying: ‘No matter how disaffected a man feels, no matter how hard done by the system he is, it’s never okay to harm or take the life of your partner or your child.’

  1. We need to challenge sexist or derogatory attitudes towards women.

Sometimes people can think they have to wait until they see a violent altercation before they can do something, but the reality is men particularly can play a major role in challenging the conditions that allow violence against women to flourish by challenging derogatory comments, sexist jokes, et cetera.

If we’re going to start preventing men from being violent in the first place, we need to challenge sexist attitudes and behaviours.

Violence is the ultimate expression of sexism

At a societal level:

We need to be intervening earlier. Providing women with information on the early warning signs is crucial because it also provides us with information on the patterns of control.

Some of those warning signs are:

        • Is he resistant to you living an independent life?
        • Is he resistant to you having your own bank account?
        • Is he resistant to you socialising with friends independently?
        • Is he overtly jealous? Does he monitor where you are and what you do?
        • Is he respectful to you? He may be in the early stages but is he respectful to other women? Ex-girlfriends?


“Be an admonisher to the rich..” Bahá’u’llah

In a recent community argument, it was offered that consultation would be favourable. I agree. However, consultation requires that both parties come to the table. In this case, one of the parties, a developer, has taken an attitude of ‘we want you to give us what we want, and we aren’t going to talk about what you want”.

There is an idea in the west that a thing, called capitalism, belongs to a western way of doing things. Capitalism is a term used by Karl Marx in the 19th century to describe a macroeconomic dynamic he was seeing. However that dynamic is a fractal social dynamic that can be observed since the agricultural revolution and, therefore, has its roots in prehistory.

Global_Distribution_of_Wealth_01Community research in the 1970’s in third world and first world communities, of all races, found that 20% of the community (usually certain families) tend to own 80% of the wealth. Zooming in on this, 20% of that 20% own 80% of the 80% of wealth I.e 4% own 64% of wealth and that fractal continues down to the most wealthy people on the planet. In line with this tendency, a recent report in “The Guardian” showed that 1% of the global population owned 48% of the global wealth.

Widespread poverty exists where there are no checks on the fundamental cause of this bias. For the fundamental cause lies in the shameless audacity of the few to assert their right to that wealth by any means available. There seem to be few internal ethical checks among this group and so only external checks in the form of human rights laws and taxes, maintains some favour in community. In countries where these laws are missing or malleable, poverty and injury is endemic.

Nonetheless, in all communities and nations as a whole, the economic bias exists, driven by the anti-community attitude.

Thomas Picketty (2013) has shown that only when heavy taxes apply to this 20%, does the whole community or nation thrive both economically and socially. Meanwhile it seems that, in every community and nation, it is important for the welfare of the community, to be mindful of those families who are organised to harvest the assets of the community for themselves. Without being mindful of these and creating community methods for redistribution, the gathering of the community assets, the destruction of the environment and the resources of the future, and the frittering of social capital, will continue until all is lost.

In the solution to poverty in the world, even if all the middle class people gave all their money to the poor, 80% of that money will end up in the hands of the wealthy 20%. In first world communities, the community spirit, the social capital, the aspirations, and the possibilities for improving welfare, continues to diminish so long as these groups remain unchecked.

Even of those who, having amassed incredible wealth and who then decide to provide some of that wealth to community through philanthropy, the question might be asked, “If your product, your profit, was more modestly priced, might not that product have been accessible to more, inspired more, opened more to the possibility of contribution, and therefore created vastly more innovation than the philanthropy that comes late to the growing problems.

Loosing Our Head For Humanity

I am grateful for having, over the last 30 years, come under the influence of the great contemporary religious philosophy, The Baha’i Faith. Forged in the middle east during the 19th century Baha’u’llah raised a counter culture to the prevailing corruption, religious distortions, and fanatacism of Islamic mainstream of the day. The early followers of that counter culture were also murdered, beheaded, staked, etc, in their thousands. Their contribution to the world is not only in their courage to stand for peace, justice, and a dramatically new view of a global humanity as one people by reason of the diversity of our histories, but that, they saw the world itself as fleeting shadows in which the actions of fanatic and hateful people are simple consequences of a void that exists when nothing real is being created. They saw that ‘real’ was their being as selfless before God, and all human beings regardless of the inability of those humans to ‘know’ the ‘reality’ and distinguish it from the void. They saw that ‘real’ is the unity among human beings, a complete forcelessness, a devolvement of self to the larger miracle of existence. These early disciples didn’t cogitate about this reality or its influence on society, rather they just WERE that reality. And so they died, often cruelly, expecting nothing but seeing that all ‘fire’ creates the space for a new being to exist, and tempers the character of those new beings so that they can create new and extraordinary life in that space. This space is not a geographical space but a transformed and enhanced way that humans BE in the world, in fabulous peace, justice, love, equity, oneness and detachment.

Those who have gone before us, who lost their heads in the heady fragrance of spiritual love, and those who, now, have lost their heads to living in a world of equity, surely allow us all to loose our heads to love for humanity. There will be much deliberation about how to contain ISIS and other terrotrists, how to destroy the evil that it brings. Yet, so many strategies will only be modestly successful, for every strategy will be tainted with hatred and revenge and bitterness and greed. And as such, the strategies will dampen some fire, only to also feed another. So it shall be as we all, as one humanity, learn that it is only in that detachment from our personal interest, can true justice flourish and only in justice can peace and security be established throughout the world.

Prison Poem: Wayfarer of Heart and Soul

Sa’id Reza’i is one the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran known as Yaran. The Yaran are all currently serving 20 year sentence prison sentences for their role in the Baha’i community in Iran. For more information please visit

“Wayfarer of Heart and Soul” is a poem he wrote from prison, encouraging Baha’is in their stand for a peaceful world civilisation.

I remained in the night

You pushed ahead toward the full sun

I remained in chains

You soared to the greatest heights.


This story, yours and mine, is an unusual saga

The story of one body

The tales of one heart

The narrative of one soul

Of its lips, singing

Of its dreams of flight

The story of two hands, tied

Of feet, in chains.


This story, yours and mine,

Is the story of departure, and of remaining

And of strides, each facing a mountain.


Have you heard the pulse of steps on the rocks?

Or have you seen a child climbing a tree?

One foot must remain, steadfast and patient

For the other to seek upper branches, higher grounds

To take flight and to find new paths.


When I saw you stride high, boundless like the wind,

I challenged my own limitations and doubts

And embraced the pain that was my lot

And I stood fast on the ground

Undeterred by the harshness of thorns and stones.


You soared beyond limits

Beyond imagination and dream

And my pain became my joy

And the harsh path ahead felt as soft as the clouds above.


I make a pledge to stand fast on the ground

For you to remain the light-footed wayfarer of heart and soul.


This story, yours and mine,

Is that of a loving heart

Beating and beating

Within the ailing body of our world

That suffers from an ancient pain

And is thirsty for new blood and fresh air.


Let me take away the darkness and the stale air

And make room for the fresh breeze and the new scent that you bring

For the worst pain, I swear, is nothing but pure joy

If it means happiness for all humanity, black and white and native and oriental.


Our story: a tale of union and separation

Of the burning candle that shed tears and gave light.

Of the nightingale and the moth

The lovers of song and flight

The narrators of the story of the candle

The timeless secret of its desire to fly

And its destined share of burning and singing.


Thus, you opened your wings

And you sang my pain

You heard and you told

You sang and you soared

Towards the daylight, towards the bright sun

Above all summits

Over all clouds.


And I pledge

That I shall remain bright

And I shall continue to recite

So that you keep the story alive

And sing the song of the friend

And remain the wayfarer of heart and soul.




Yaran-i-Iran address the Iranian President from prison.

The passing of Nelson Mandela, this month, reminded the world how one human being, choosing to be powerful in life, even while behind prison bars, can inspire a nation, and the world to a whole new game.
Photo of Iranian Baha'i Leaders before arrest
So imagine the impact that the world is yet to experience from the powerfulness of the seven imprisoned leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran.
The Yaran-i-Iran (The Friends of Iran) are men and women who were ‘accredited’ by the Iranian government to assist the affairs of the half million Baha’is of Iran, in a legal context in which the Baha’i Faith was banned. Five years ago the men and women were arrested, charged with espionage, and given a twenty year prison sentence. During that time, there is at least one incident of the authorities conspiring to murder one of the women, a  plot that failed when the assassin, another prisoner, found the Baha’i women involved in acts of kindness and care for other women prisoners including the American hiker, Sarah Shourd, who returned to write this piece for Huffington Post.  The Yaran, although in prison and separated, have managed to write a letter of power to the President of Iran.

The below is an English translation of a letter addressed to Iranian President, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, from the imprisoned Yaran-i-Iran, or Friends of Iran, the former seven member ad hoc leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran. A copy of the letter in Persian can be found online on the Jaras website, at  This letter was sent in response to the invitation that President Rouhani extended to the citizens of Iran, to comment on the draft Charter of Citizens’ Rights, the text of which is provided, in Persian only, on the president’s website, at

Your Excellency, Dr. Hassan Rouhani,

In the life of every nation there are moments of profound significance, when seemingly simple actions can turn the tide of history, when age-old misunderstandings can begin to be resolved, and when a new chapter in the destiny of its people can begin.  Your Excellency’s recent public call for participation in a common discourse about the rights and responsibilities of citizens has kindled in hearts the light of hope that such a moment may have arrived for the people of Iran and for the destiny of this sacred land.  Appreciating this invitation, we are impelled by a moral duty towards our homeland, and especially by a deep concern for the youth of our country, to add our voice to this significant discourse.

We take this action from within our prison cell, notwithstanding the considerable obstacles in our path, as a band of law-abiding citizens who more than five years ago were arrested and have since suffered imprisonment simply for our efforts to manage the internal affairs of the Bahá’í community of Iran.  We write this letter at this critical and decisive juncture lest history should judge us harshly as having failed in our duty.

Dr. Rouhani, Your Excellency,

Although the sole fact of demonstrating an interest in reviewing and upholding the rights of the individual is in itself highly significant, we find it necessary here to state emphatically that, in our view, the oneness of all peoples and their fundamental liberty are not merely civil and legal constructs—they are spiritual principles whose source is the one Divine Creator, who made all humankind from the same stock.  The people of Iran, justifiably, wish to prosper and flourish in their individual and collective lives.  They wish to see their children advance, their youth tread the path of progress, and their nation enjoy a state of peace and tranquillity.  Yet, surely, none of these aspirations can be accomplished unless social and legal conditions make it possible for all the constituent elements of society to be treated equally and well, for all individuals to be accorded their basic human rights, and for no one to be subjugated and oppressed by reason of their ethnicity, gender, religious belief, or any other distinction.

The present discourse on the rights of citizens centres on a charter currently being drafted, yet we believe that, beyond seeking comment about the contents of that document, your invitation is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the state of our country and consider the character of the society in which we wish to live.  For such a reflection to be effective, it seems essential that we should first ask ourselves searching questions about the state of our society and the environment in which we wish to raise future generations.  We must look deep into our hearts.  Given that our land has suffered every kind of prejudice, discrimination, aggression, and social ill—a suffering whose consequences are apparent in all departments of our nation’s collective life—we must ask ourselves:  what are truly the most vital principles that would fulfil our highest aspirations for our nation, and what are the means to establish these principles?  How do we respect the nobility of every individual?  How will a constructive environment be fostered in which all the different constituent parts of society can thrive?  What are the necessary conditions that would enable women to contribute their full share?  How do we wish children to be treated?  How do we enable minorities—ethnic, religious, or other—to make their contribution to the betterment of society shoulder to shoulder with others?  What is to be done so that differences of views and beliefs are properly respected?  How do we eradicate violence from our society?  How do we guarantee the right to education for all?  These are among the thoughts that should inform us as we search for the principles that must guide our society and shape the formulation of the rights of its citizenry.

Your Excellency,

Seeking the views of the various elements of society about the future can, of course, represent a first step towards building a progressive country, but what is of foundational importance is that the nation’s school curriculums be reviewed to ensure that the soil is prepared in which a progressive culture may take root, a culture established upon fundamental principles such as the nobility of humankind and the equality of all before the law.

To document the citizens’ rights and enshrine them in a charter may well be an important initiative in the course of a country’s development, but if such a charter is not carefully drafted or, worse still, if it is deliberately crafted as a means to exclude, it could be used as a tool for justifying discrimination and perpetuating oppression.  Therefore, beyond the benefits that accrue from a free and open discourse and appropriate educational programmes, it is imperative for the protection of the people’s rights, first, to enact laws that explicitly protect these rights, and, second, to fashion the necessary structures that prevent an arbitrary interpretation of the law.  The dismissal of thousands of Bahá’í citizens from government posts, the execution of more than two hundred innocent Bahá’ís, the expulsion of thousands of students from universities, the sentences handed down during the past eight years to hundreds of Bahá’ís—indeed, what has happened in our own case, and the judicial process that led to a twenty-year jail sentence for each one of us—are all salutary lessons that illustrate our point and amply demonstrate the need for safeguards in how the law is applied.  In all the years that we had the honour to serve the Bahá’í community of Iran, the authorities had full knowledge of our involvement in this work.  Then, one day, as a result of warped thinking and on the whim of certain individuals in authority, it was decided that our service should be deemed illegal, and consequently, we have spent nearly six years behind bars.

Your Excellency,

If no effective solutions are devised, under conditions where individual rights can be trampled upon so arbitrarily, who can be certain that the fate that has befallen us today will not befall him tomorrow.

In closing, we wish Your Excellency every success in your sincere service to the great nation of Iran in the path of justice, freedom, and equality.


Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Shahriari, Behrouz Azizi-Tavakkoli, Fariba Kamalabadi, Afif Naimi