Image: US Air Force

Tackling violence against women

26 March 2018

More information

Professor Sharon Bessell is Director of Gender Equity and Diversity and heads the Children’s Policy Centre and the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy. Her research focuses on social policy for children and she currently teaches Global Social Policy (POGO8044) and Development Theories and Themes (POGO8072).

You might also like

Related research centres

On the new Policy Forum Pod, Crawford School’s Sharon Bessell and Martyn Pearce talk to one of the world’s leading experts on gender-based violence and look at where the Sustainable Development Goals, the #MeToo movement, and men fit into these important global discussions.

The world has just celebrated International Women’s Day for 2018, and this week on the podcast we’re taking a look at an important part of the movement for gender equality – the issue of violence against women. We’re talking with Professor Sally Engle Merry about international efforts to measure violence against women, whether the Sustainable Development Goals are giving momentum to the issue or complicating it still further, and whether the #MeToo movement marks a turning point in tackling gender-based violence. Listen to the podcast here:

Professor Sally Engle Merry is Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University and is also a Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law. She is the author of 16 books and special journal issues looking at issues of international law, human rights, and gender violence.

Asked whether she thinks the #MeToo movement marks a turning point for tackling gender-based violence, she is cautious in expressing optimism.

“The #MeToo movement has been very bizarre for many feminists, myself included,” she said.

“Most women have known for many long years that this pattern is widespread and common. What we have now is a shift in visibility of this, and yet there are some people – including people who are presidents of countries – who engage in this behaviour and nothing happens to them.

“So I worry this won’t last. Those who are surprised will then think the problem is going to go away, as they used to think it was, and those who know this has been with us forever and will continue to be with us forever are just going to go along in thinking it’s forever.

“I wish I could be more optimistic.”

Over the last few years, Professor Merry has been studying efforts to come up with ways of measuring violence against women globally. She said that although significant strides had been made in this area, there was still a long way to go.

“The UN Statistical Commission said there are now about 130 countries where there is some data and there have been interviews with four million women.

“Now that may seem like a lot. But when you see that there are five, six billion people in the world, this is a drop in the bucket.”

The Sustainable Development Goals seek to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, but Professor Merry said that there are limitations in the goals.

“The SDGs are another complicated problem. As the goals have been translated into indicators – things that can be measured – many of the new, more expansive creative ideas actually turned out to be not yet measurable and not readily measurable, so [they have been] divided into tiers. Tier one is a useable one, tier two has a methodology but no data, and tier three has neither methodology nor data.

“Out of the 232 indicators, only 93 are tier one, so many of the others are as yet unmeasurable or lacking data. The violence against women indicators fall into tier two and three, so even though it looks like we’re going to finally include these in the Sustainable Development Goals, there is not enough data yet, not enough figured out about how to go about doing these measurements.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Professor Merry also discussed the world’s ‘indicator culture’ and looked at where men fit into global discussions on violence against women. Professor Merry was in conversation with Sharon Bessell and Martyn Pearce. This podcast was produced with the assistance of the ANU Gender Institute.

Policy Forum Pod is the podcast of Policy Forum, Crawford School’s blog for debate and analysis of important policy issues. The podcast is available on Spotify, iTunes, Stitchr, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Filed under:

Updated:  30 November 2023/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team