Thousands rally at Australia’s parliament to demand justice for sexual assault victims

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Thousands of women gathered in major cities across Australia on Monday to take part in rallies calling for gender equality and justice for victims of sexual assault.

The March 4 Justice rallies have been spurred by a recent wave of allegations of sexual assault, discrimination and misconduct in some of Australia’s highest political offices.

Protesters gather outside of the Liberal Party Office during the Women’s March 4 Justice in Melbourne, Australia, 15 March 2021. Marches are being held around the country to raise awareness of sexual harassment against women in government and workplaces. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS

Organisers expect around 85,000 women to join the marches, including one in the capital of Canberra where two petitions demanding action will be delivered to parliament.

A delegation of organisers rejected an invitation to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in private.

“We’ve come to his front garden,” Janine Hendry, one of the organisers, told Reuters outside Parliament House. “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.”

A spokesman for Morrison said there was a standing offer for a private meeting and declined to comment further.

Recently reported scandals include rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter, who has strongly denied the alleged 1988 assault, saying it simply did not happen.

The public anger over the government’s handling of alleged incidents of sexual assault mirrors the sentiment on display in London over the weekend, where protests were held following the killing of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home at night-time.

Among protesters gathered in Canberra, one held a sign reading: “Shatter the silence. Stop the violence.”

The allegations involving people in Morrison’s government are expected to dominate parliamentary proceedings over the next two weeks.

Both Porter and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds – who has been criticised for failing to report an alleged rape of one of her former staff members by another – are both on sick leave.

Main Photo: Protesters stand off with Victorian Police officers outside the the Liberal Party Offices during the Women’s March 4 Justice in Melbourne, Australia, 15 March 2021. Marches are being held around the country to raise awareness of sexual harassment against women in government and workplaces. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS

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