On Monday night, representatives from the Australian government appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) as part of a current review into Australia’s obligations under its treaty. In their submission, our government argued, “As a matter of international law, domestic violence does not fall within the scope of the Convention … as it is not conduct that is committed by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
In other words, violence against women does not constitute ‘torture’. Clementine Ford, Daily Life
Unfortunately, the Convention against Torture reads as follows:
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Domestic violence does not constitute torture according to the UN Convention, so the Australian government representatives are correct.
What is tragic is that the Australian government is not arguing for an amendment to the Convention that will include domestic violence in the definition of torture.
Given that the Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, has shown no interest at all in the horrific abuses against women in this country, I doubt there will be any initiatives from Australia along the lines of amending the Convention.