Women’s Reproductive Rights: White Ribbon Australia Position Statement
White Ribbon Australia believes that all women should have complete control over their reproductive and sexual health.
We take this position because:
We are opposed to all forms of control, violence and abuse. Restricting or denying a woman the autonomy to make decisions about her body is an attempt to maintain power and control over a woman. This is also known as reproductive coercion[i].
Sexual and reproductive rights are basic human rights. Denying a woman access to contraception and abortion is a denial of basic rights to health care. It impacts on a woman achieving economic and sexual self-determination and having full access to education and employment[ii]. It is a woman’s right to choose if and when she gets pregnant. It is a woman’s right to seek an abortion.
Women want access to abortion and control over their reproductive rights[iii].
Criminalisation of abortion and restricted access to abortion and birth control (through high cost and limited availability) endanger women’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing[iv].
It is consistent with community attitudes on abortion, with most Australians being pro-choice. The 2003 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes found that the vast majority of Australians are pro-choice, including 77% of people who identify as religious[v].
Nationally consistent access to safe and legal abortion, including late-term abortion in all states and territories, removing uncertainty for women and health professionals.
Provision of abortion through the public health system in all states and territories.
Cost and travel support for women who want an abortion. This is especially vital for women in rural and remote areas, and women experiencing financial abuse.
Full access to affordable, long-acting and reversible contraception.
Financial and social support for pregnant women who want to continue the pregnancy and remain in or leave an abusive relationship.
Respectful relationships education for young people that includes sexuality education.
Training for health professionals and the domestic violence sector in identifying and responding to reproductive coercion.
Post-abortion support for women who need it.
Recognition of reproductive coercion as an example of domestic violence in state and territory laws.
Violence and pregnancy
Intimate partner violence has a range of health consequences for women. This includes sexually transmitted infections, unintended and unwanted pregnancy, abortion and unsafe abortion, and pregnancy complications[vi].
Research indicates that unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are more common among women experiencing domestic violence[vii]. Pregnancy is also a trigger for domestic violence to first occur: of women who have experienced violence during pregnancy by a previous partner since the age of 15, 25% indicated that the violence first occurred during the pregnancy[viii].
This violence can be related to reproductive coercion. Reproductive coercion is any behaviour, physical and emotional, aimed at establishing and maintaining power and control by restricting a woman’s reproductive autonomy, denying her control over decisions related to her reproductive health and limiting her access to reproductive health options.
Perpetrator behaviours include:
Pregnancy pressure, for example a man accusing a woman of not wanting to be pregnant because she doesn’t love him or because she wants to continue alleged affairs.
Contraceptive sabotage, for example destroying birth control pills or condoms, rape, controlling finances and restricting a woman’s access to birth control, insisting on unprotected sex.
Pregnancy outcome control, for example pressuring a woman to continue a pregnancy or pressuring a woman to end a pregnancy[ix].
While some women in violent, controlling and abusive relationships may be forced to have an abortion by their partners, there is no sound data on the prevalence of this in Australia[x]. Just as a woman should not be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, a woman should never be forced to have an abortion. A woman’s choice and autonomy are paramount.
Please find below our position in relation to White Ribbon and Endeavour Drinks Group partnership which addresses your questions.
The partnership between White Ribbon Australia and the Endeavour Drinks Group was approved by the Board after a process of extensive stakeholder and research consultation. We are conscious that some supporters regard this partnership as controversial. We informed all supporters about this partnership.
Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG) have been supporting the work of White Ribbon since June 2013 to express their commitment to the prevention of violence against women. One of the main drivers for the establishment of this relationship was to “go where the problem is”. With millions of Australians visiting BWS/Dan Murphy’s each year, the partnership provides an opportunity to reach the community and continue to bring violence against women into the open, to talk about it and help prevent it from happening.
Our partnership with EDG is based on ethical engagement, sound research and an informed understanding of the issue of men’s violence against women and its link with alcohol. It is a relationship between a large retail group and White Ribbon Australia as part of the broader strategy to engage the community at large and men in particular, at times and places that extend the reach of the campaign into contexts that are difficult to reach.
Across November, EDG retailers, Dan Murphy’s and BWS invited customers to make a donation at the point of sale. EDG committed to matching dollar for dollar, donations from their customers. Our campaign message is clear and unarguable: Alcohol is not an excuse for violence. There is no excuse. Within the limits of what is possible to convey with the time and means available at such points of sale, we believe that the displayed message in its context provides a focus on the link between alcohol and violence. Alcohol is not the underlying driver of violence against women. Men always have a choice; not all people who drink are violent, and many people who do not drink are violent. The proceeds that were raised by this initiative (including the Endeavour Drinks Group contribution) will be applied fully to programs aimed at young men at risk of alcohol abuse and abuse by violence.
Alcohol increases the likelihood and severity of violence and patterns of alcohol consumption in the Northern Territory make it a significant factor there. It is precisely for those reasons that White Ribbon Australia decided to target point of sale with key messaging that may be effective with men purchasing alcohol. Our message was on display and targeted to men at risk of alcohol-fuelled violence.
White Ribbon Australia is in no way denying a link between alcohol and violence – we are acknowledging the fact and seeking to contact men who may be at risk of causing the one to lead to the other. Nor is WRA supporting or encouraging the consumption of alcohol – we accept that it occurs and seek to use that circumstance to the advantage of our mission.
Research demonstrates that the relationship between alcohol and violence is the result of a complex interaction of a number of variables eg physical effect, individual characteristics, the drinking environment and societal attitudes and values. To address this issue associated with alcohol dependency and fuelled violence requires more than a focus on the activities of alcohol distributors.
To prevent violence against women requires engaging with the public at places where they live, work and play.
Alcohol does not itself drive violence against women. However, the contribution of alcohol to increased perpetration is significant in the context of social norms and practices that condone or support violence against women, in particular those relating to masculinity and masculine peer group behaviour.
White Ribbon is committed to engaging with people across the community to obtain maximum reach on the key messaging on stopping violence against women in places where they live, work and play.
In a global first, White Ribbon Australia has opened its Ambassador program up to researchers, with a team at the University of Wollongong independently evaluating why men become Ambassadors, their violence prevention activities, and the challenges they face in advocating to end violence against women.
Conducted by Kenton Bell and Claire E. Seaman, the project ‘Case Study of White Ribbon Australia’s Ambassador Program: Men as Allies to Prevent Men’s Violence against Women,’ shows the key role men can play in violence prevention, and provides support for White Ribbon’s overhaul of the Ambassador Program.
As part of this overhaul, White Ribbon is nearing completion of its ‘re-committal process’, which requires every Ambassador to reapply for their position, complete additional training on men’s violence against women, undergo further reference checks and submit to interviews with trained White Ribbon staff. Other initiatives include increasing the diversity of Ambassadors and providing year-round training.
The Ambassador program began in 2005 and provides men with a leadership role in engaging men in the prevention of violence against women. White Ribbon Ambassadors are formal representatives of White Ribbon Australia and are required to have the knowledge, skills, attributes and determination to influence Australian men to critically evaluate their attitudes and behaviours toward women.
The data in this national study was collected through an online survey completed by 296 Ambassadors and in-depth interviews with 86 Ambassadors.
1 in 2 men became a White Ribbon Ambassador after hearing stories about men’s violence against women.
“She was a good person and she had a lot to offer the world and she can no longer physically be here, so I feel that it’s just my responsibility to try and do whatever I can to ensure that ray of sunshine doesn’t completely extinguish.”
70% of Ambassadors felt a moral obligation to join a movement to end men’s violence against women.
“I want my daughter to have the same opportunities and level of safety in her life as my sons.”
The vast majority of men (74%) were committed to promoting gender equality prior to becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador, however, 40% report that being an Ambassador has changed how they relate to women. 85% of these men report that they are more conscious of promoting equality and equity in their personal and professional lives since becoming an Ambassador.
“I am no longer intimidated by the feminist movement, and no longer see that movement as a threat to my masculinity or male freedom! I feel I can stand side by side with strong women who have been fighting against gender inequality.”
83% of Ambassadors felt that White Ribbon enabled men to speak to other men about violence against women.
“I believe I am more likely to challenge men about the language they use and what they think is acceptable.”
Men place a high value on the Ambassador title. They want the position to be a rare honour bestowed only on men who continually prove their commitment to White Ribbon.