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International Women's Day: a time to reflect and consider continuing challenges

Commission Commission – General

5 March 2004

Women's Day - 8 March 2004 - a time to reflect and consider continuing

On International
Women's Day, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has encouraged
women in Australia to join their female counterparts around the globe
in the continuing struggle for equality between men and women and the
fight against all forms of gender-based discrimination.

This year also marks
the 20th anniversary of Australia's federal Sex Discrimination Act,
which makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their
sex, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy.

Commissioner Goward
said today's celebrations provide women in Australia with the first of
many opportunities in 2004 to reflect on past progress and consider the
continuing challenges to equality in our society.

"Reflecting on the
past, we can acknowledge our starting point and celebrate the steps we
have made on the path to equality," said Ms Goward.

"We should recognise
the major contribution women continue to make to Australian society through
both their paid and unpaid work. But we also need to think strategically
about how to overcome the remaining stubborn obstacles to equality between
men and women that remain."

The Commissioner
said that discrimination against women because of their mothering role
remains one such obstacle to equality and still leads to poverty for many
Australian women.

"As soon as they
become pregnant, many Australian women experience discrimination by a
society that is unaccommodating to those with parenting responsibilities,"
Ms Goward said.

"This International
Women's Day, let's continue to press for the development and introduction
of better policies to support women in both their work and family lives.
It's time motherhood received the respect and support in Australian society
that it deserves.

Commissioner Goward
said there are other barriers to equality between men and women which
are also in urgent need of resources and support, particularly violence
against women and sexual harassment.

"The attitudes towards
women that underpin such behaviour make it clear that Australian women
have a long way to go before we achieve true equality with men," she said.

"Engagement on these
issues with men is also crucial. Without their involvement, our progress
towards a society with gender equality at its core will definitely be

Media contact:
Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

updated 5 March 2004.