Women across Australia march against sexual violence and inequality

CANBERRA (AFP) – Tens of thousands of women protested across Australia against sexual violence and gender inequality yesterday, as outrage grew over rape allegations that have convulsed the conservative government.

The #March4Justice rallies were held in more than 40 Australian cities and towns, with a major demonstration in Canberra following allegations of sexual assault in the nation’s parliament.

Dressed mostly in black, the crowd gathered outside Parliament House holding aloft placards with slogans including “You’re Not Listening”, “How Many Victims Do You Know?” and “I Believe Her”.

Protester Kathryn Jamieson, who travelled from Melbourne to take part, said she was “fuming with rage”.

“I wanted to be at the heart of the matter, I’ve completely had enough,” she told AFP. “We need immediate change – I’m sick of women not being believed.”

Former government staffer Brittany Higgins alleged publicly last month that she had been raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in 2019.

And earlier this month, Attorney-General Christian Porter vigorously denied swirling accusations he had raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when they were both students.

The controversy has placed growing pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who critics say has fumbled the government’s response to the scandals.

The latest gaffe came yesterday when he told Parliament, “Not far from here such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country” – drawing furious interjections from opposition politicians and stunned reactions online.

“The prime minister thinks women should be grateful that we weren’t shot for rallying for our own safety,” Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young tweeted.

Public anger at Morrison’s government was reflected in a new opinion poll yesterday showing voter support has fallen to levels not seen since 2019 when he vacationed in Hawaii while massive bushfires were raging in Australia.