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Another week, another woman murdered: The death of 28 women is a national emergency

  • Another week, another woman murdered: The death of 28 women ...

On Monday night, Salwa Haydar was stabbed to death by her husband in their home in south Sydney.

Haydar Haydar, Salwa’s husband, stabbed her a number of times before stabbing their 18-year-old daughter Ola. Haydar lost consciousness, and her daughter called the police. She died at the scene. The 18-year-old was taken to St George Hospital where she is being treated for stab wounds, but is in a stable condition.

Salwa Haydar left behind four children on Monday night. That same night, her husband handed himself into police and was charged with murder and intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He has been formally refused bail and his case will be heard in court on April 9.

Haydar’s story is unbearably tragic. It is made all the more so by the fact that stories like hers seem more prevalent now than ever.

Haydar was the 26th woman to die in Australia as a result of violence against women since January 1, 2015, and the seventh in NSW alone. That is just over two women per week. The Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint are compiling a comprehensive list of women killed in Australia due to domestic violence. Today they have updated the count to 28 women who have been killed in Australia in 2015.

If these numbers persist throughout 2015, this year see an alarming increase in the number of women killed as a result of this epidemic.

Haydar was the second woman to be killed in Australia in just two days. On Sunday night, a woman who is yet to be named was stabbed to death in the Northern Territory. Her de facto partner, also unnamed, was taken into custody for her murder.

Just seven days earlier, June Wallis was found dead in her home in Pacific Haven, Queensland. Her husband Nathan Greenfield has been formally charged with her murder.

The week before that, 17-year-old Masa Vutokic was stabbed to death just kilometres from her home in Melbourne while walking through a park in the early evening. Her murderer, Sean Price, later handed himself in to police.

One day earlier, Sabah Al Mdwali was stabbed to death in her home in Gordon, ACT. Her husband, Maged Mohommad Ahmed Al-Haraz has been formally charged with her murder and will shortly face trial.

Just one day earlier again, Jackie Ohide was found dead in her car, parked outside her some in South Australia. Her husband Toby Awatere has been charged with her murder.

 Two days before Ohide was found, another as yet unnamed woman was found dead at her home in Western Australia.

Ohide, Vutokic, Mdwali and the unnamed woman were all killed in the space of five days. Their deaths, along with Haydar, Wallis and 20 others, make 2015 the most deadly year for women in recent memory.

Encouragingly though, these crimes are getting more mainstream coverage than ever before.

The cover of today’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald features a half-page image of Salwa Haydar, reading: “Mother-of-four Salwa Haydar died in a frenzied stabbing attack on Monday night. Her death is the seventh in  NSW this year from domestic violence”.

Brisbane’s the Courier Mail also covered the issue on its front page. A story about domestic violence allegations against Labor MP Billy Gordon, detailing the government’s slow response to the allegations as well as the accusations being thrown around by politicians surrounding the claims, is the paper’s cover feature.

The cover image is more powerful still – a simple image of a white ribbon, symbolising the fight against domestic violence, accompanied by the words “domestic violence is not a political football” and, in larger text, the words, “stop it”.

The Guardian has recently brought the issue to the fore in their editorial coverage, following the lead of advocacy group Destroy The Joint in compiling a list of all the women that have been killed through domestic violence in Australia this year.

Leaders from all sides of state politics pledged action on domestic violence ahead of state election. Federal politicians have followed suit.

Waking up every day and seeing more and more coverage of the tragedies that result from domestic violence is abhorrent but it is heartening. It is a sign that something is changing. That perhaps people are beginning to pay attention.

There is no question that the issue’s raised profile signals that we are one step closer to solving the problem – but it is the steps that come next that are crucial, and they need to be taken immediately. As it stands, the increase in coverage of domestic violence has been matched by an increase in deaths resulting from it.

Awareness is essential in the ongoing battle against domestic violence. But it is not enough.

We know this because all of the coverage and pledges made in the early months of 2015 were not enough to keep those 26 women safe. Those 26 women constitute a national emergency, and we need to treat them as such. We need to do more than just talk about ending violenceagainst women. We need to take the next steps, and we need to take them fast.

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