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Sydney lockout laws: A feminist issue

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Kings Cross at night (Image by Luke Reynolds via Flickr, CC2.0)

The Sydney lockout laws do not look for a long term resolution for alcohol-fueled male violence, where we can have just laws for everyone, says Sophia Irvine.

TWO YOUNG MEN had died due to alcohol violence, in the same area of Kings Cross, which was once upon a time Sydney's most thriving nightlife suburb.

The lockout laws, for those who have forgotten, is a 1.30am cut off of drinks and entry to establishments and a 3:00 am closing time for establishments within the majority of the cosmopolitan areas in Sydney. Weirdly, not in Darling Harbour, where James Packer's Casino is situated — but that's an article for another time.

Despite the closing of many businesses – some smaller and some iconic to the city – and a decline in musicians being able to showcase their music because venues couldn't support them in the small allocated time they were allowed to be open. According to the doctors and nurses at St Vincents Hospital, located a short walk from the strip of nightclubs and sin, the law did work. There was a huge decline in alcohol-related injuries and, more importantly, deaths.

So there are pros and cons to this law, neither of which this article is about.

Why the Sydney lockout laws are a feminist issue is quite simple.

Of the large number of rapes and murders of women in Australia, some of the most horrendous have occurred in Victoria — although they occur in every state and always have.

Yet there has not been a whisper – not even a rumour or suggestion – of changing the laws in Victoria to keep females safe.

No, instead we mourn the victims, punish the attacker if they are located and then are told strategies that can help women avoid such situations.

Having a loved one dying a violent death is painful and unjust for any family, and I am not taking away from the unfair loss of the teenagers Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly, who were the catalyst for the lockout laws.

However, looking at it with a critical eye, you can see that men becoming violent when drinking and ending two young men's life sparked a city wide night time shut down.

Yet Jill Meagher is raped and murdered, along with a slew of others, and nothing is done.

Women aren't asking for a law to shut down night time activities, which they equally take part in and enjoy, nor are we here to say one life is more important than another.

But, when a whole nation is experiencing heightened violence and drinking in males. Perhaps it's time we started asking men what makes them so violent.

Perhaps we start teaching males young that it is not okay to punch someone at any time no matter how inebriated you are. Much like they should be taught not to touch a female without her consent, instead of females being told not to pass certain streets at night, or provoke male attention by their outfits.

The lockout laws are a band-aid solution for the problem of people acting disgracefully when drinking, and instead of working out how to help them in treating this problem, we simply shut down a city to avoid it.

Did it fix the problem?

In terms of head injuries caused by drunk men in the streets of Kings Cross — yes it did.

Is Sydney, the only cosmopolitan city in the world to have a curfew? Did businesses suffer and eventually shut down? Did tourism take a big hit? Also yes.

However, the fact remains that not all men are violent when they drink, not all people who attended Kings Cross before the lockout laws got into dangerous situations, and women who are violently attacked deserve just as much political discussion as those two men who changed a thriving city forever. 

Where are our politicians support for the safety of women?

And when will it be learned that taking away the substance and factors that cause the problem does not cure the human behind the actions. It does not look at a long term resolution where we can have just laws for everyone and work on the reason why people take it amongst themselves to cause unforgivable harm to both sexes.

Sophia Irvine is a freelance writer, residing in Sydney Australia.

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