Thousands have taken to the streets across Australia, protesting violence against women amid allegations that a defense minister sought to silence a rape claim and accusations of sexual assault against an attorney general.
Hundreds of demonstrators flocked to the Parliament House, which also houses the Australian government, including the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, on Monday, as part of the #MarchForJustice campaign against sexual abuse of women.
Attendees carried signs reading “Enough,”“It’s time for men to change,” and “Rape Place,” as they stood on the lawn in front of the building.
Similar scenes played out in front of a parliament building in Sydney, one of Australia’s largest cities, where police estimated that some 6,000 people had turned out for the march as of Sunday afternoon.
Protesters also marched on the streets of Melbourne. Participants unfolded a giant list featuring the names of Australian women killed as result of gender-based violence since 2008.
The protesters also demanded the sacking of Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Porter has been on medical leave amid allegations that he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988. The allegations stem from a letter, sent by purported friends of the woman, who committed suicide last year. Porter squarely denied the allegations. On Monday, the AG filed a defamation lawsuit against Australia’s ABC News broadcaster, accusing its journalist Louise Milligan of smearing his character by reporting the letter last month. The news service said that it would challenge the lawsuit.
The sexual assault allegations against Porter were reported on the back of another rape scandal, which has been gripping the Morrison cabinet for a month. On February 15, former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins claimed that she was raped in Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds’s office by a male staffer in 2019. Higgins said that she was severely drunk from a work party, accusing the man of taking advantage of her state. She alleged that Reynolds failed to support her, claiming that the defense minister wanted to sweep the report under the carpet so it did not hurt the party politically. Last Friday, Reynolds publicly apologized to Higgins for calling her a “lying cow“ in front of other staffers. The minister insisted, however, that her offensive remark was misunderstood and did not mean she thought Higgins was lying about the rape.
Higgins was one of the key speakers at a Canberra rally on Sunday. Addressing the crowd in front of Parliament House, she called for changes to the working atmosphere in the parliament, arguing that “the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures” within the Australian society.