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What men can do to help in the fight against domestic violence
Only days before we heard of yet another domestic violence fatality in our community (this time in Queensland), Sydney’s Mohit Kumar was urging men to stand up against such crime.
“Men are in a unique position to stop other men from perpetrating this crime,” Kumar said at a Blacktown forum. “If you see or suspect that this is affecting someone in your family or friends, call it out. Call the police and do something about it.”
His message clearly did not reach out to the community in which 43-year-old Balwinder Ghumman lived, who killed his wife Manjinder and her mother on 14 March.
In the light of this horrific incident in which two other family members were seriously wounded, Kumar’s message needs to be repeated, louder and clearer.
As a White Ribbon Ambassador, Police Prosecutor Mohit Kumar was speaking at an Indian subcontinent community forum organised by White Ribbon Australia in collaboration with Seva International and the NSW Department of Social Services.
White Ribbon is Australia’s only national male-led campaign to end violence against women.
The forum, held at Blacktown Workers Club, was intended to spread their message of primary prevention among people from multicultural backgrounds. In conjunction with Blacktown’s law enforcement agencies, the campaign has been working to encourage male leadership in the Indian community to support the prevention of men’s violence perpetrated against women.
Blacktown’s Local Area Commander Superintendent Gary Merryweather, also a White Ribbon Ambassador, spoke passionately about tackling domestic violence. “Everybody has the right to feel safe out in the public or in their homes,” he said. He talked about the work being done by the Blacktown police to combat domestic violence, and in reaching out to the public in their community-driven campaign.
Senior Constable Genelle Warne, a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer, also addressed the forum. “Domestic and family violence occurs in all sections of the community and in all cultures, and one in three women is experiencing it,” she said. “My one role is to ensure that a victim is being protected by the law. If they still want to be with their family, those perpetrators have to realise that their actions are wrong. Very often perpetrators do not realise that their behaviour is incorrect. This is where we need to create awareness.”
Recipient of the 2015 Blacktown Woman of the Year award, Sr Const. Warne urged people to call the police if they need help dealing with a domestic violence situation. “You should be able to live in your home without any fear,” she said. “I would like to tell the men who have sons and daughters to teach them to respect each other and to treat each other well.”
In his address, Police Prosecutor Mohit Kumar engaged the audience with stories from the Indian community and described some of the deep rooted cultural barriers in maintaining respectful relationships.
Diversity and Inclusion Manager at White Ribbon Australia, Sunila Kotwal, and Sumati Advani, Chief Operating Officer of Seva International, also spoke. Both reiterated the need to safely and effectively challenge the outlook of the minority of men who use or condone violence against women.
Other speakers highlighted different aspects of the social, physical and emotional factors associated with these behaviours.
Akshay Raj, a lawyer by profession, spoke from a legal perspective about societal gender inequality. He also spoke about his work with university students in promoting respectful relationships.
White Ribbon Ambassadors Umesh Chandra (who flew in for the event from Brisbane) and Liam Dooley (Community Engagement Manager at White Ribbon), highlighted the extensive work of the White Ribbon Ambassadors to raise awareness and provide tools to prevent men’s violence against women.
Other speakers included hip hop artist L-FRESH, The Lion (Sukhdeep Singh), local barrister Susai Benjamin, and Allied Health Consultant Anne Kalra.
Avnish Sandhu from Pink Ladoo brought in a different perspective and spoke about focusing on gender equality at birth, by celebrating the birth of a daughter.
Perhaps the men who lived and worked with Balwinder Ghumman would like to answer this question: could you have done something to save the lives of two innocent women?