Historically, women have always been subservient to men. They suffered from disenfranchisement and the lack of property rights. The law stated that on marriage, a man and woman became unita caro, which meant that the man owned all property. They weren’t even allowed to divorce their husbands until the Matrimonial Causes Act 1873 was passed. Women suffered and still do, from sex based discrimination and harassment; no matter direct or indirect. They are susceptible to violence; domestic and sexual assault, regardless of the legislations enacted to prevent it.
Children and young people were also subservient to their parents. They were always known to be ‘seen not heard’ because of their lack of rights. Children and young people have always been vulnerable to workplace exploitation, harassment and injury. They are also vulnerable to domestic abuse and neglect. The rate of all types of abuse in 2001-02 was estimated to be 4.3 times higher in the Indigenous population. Children and young people had very limited abilities to determine their own ‘best interests’ in contractual and criminal situations as they had no rights at the time.
Throughout the years, many legal mechanisms have been out in place to overcome the disadvantages women face. One of them is the response of the legal system regarding the women’s lack of political suffrage. Women only gained political suffrage in 1894 in South Australia with New South Wales following closely behind in 1902. It was recognized by all the states in 1908. Women also gained the right to enter contracts with the Married Women’s Property Act 1894 (NSW). This act provided women with property rights and economic independence. In resolving sex-based discrimination and harassment, international conventions have been entered to prevent discrimination and harassment; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Domestic legislations have also been passed to prevent discrimination and harassment against...
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