The red shoes protest in Mexico in 2020 against femicide. Credit: Canva
The red shoes protest in Mexico in 2020 against femicide. Credit: Canva

Much has been written over the last few months about the significant hardship faced by Australian international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates have expressed concerns about the increased risk of domestic violence and the limited options women on temporary visas have to get away from their abusers during the shutdown. Isolated in the home with limited opportunities to seek support, excluded from housing and legal support programs in Australia and from federal government COVID-19 financial support, international women students, along with women on other temporary visas, have found their options progressively shrinking.

Last week, these valid concerns for women’s safety were starkly realised when Kamaljeet Sidhu was discovered in her home with fatal stab wounds allegedly inflicted by her violent husband. Kamaljeet had sought police intervention several times over the last 6 weeks but, ultimately,  she was not able to leave her abuser due to systemic barriers. As an international student, and with alternative housing options closed down, it is very likely she had nowhere else to go.

It has been said that men’s violence against women and children is an unrecognised crisis that runs alongside the crisis of COVID-19. In Australia, 21 women have been killed by domestic violence in the first five months of this year. Like Kamaljeet, all of these women deserved safety and support; they deserved to continue to live fulfilling lives. We collectively grieve the loss of  women like Kamaljeet and we join with Tarang Chawla in honouring the names and lives of women who are killed by domestic violence.

The unacceptable numbers certainly indicate a national emergency that without decisive government and community action, will continue long after a Coronavirus vaccine is found. We know that a vaccine will not prevent violence against women, but we do know that when it comes to women on temporary visas, we must remove the systemic barriers to women’s safety and ensure that women can access support from the services they trust. New research released this week shows that migrant women experiencing violence often seek support from settlement and multicultural services.

Our task is clear: take actions that remove discrimination in the family violence and migration systems. We need to make sure that all women, regardless of migration status, can access the support they need.