The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has criticised the terms of reference for a Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality, saying the terms, which rely on contested social theory, are too narrow and fail to examine broader factors in domestic violence.

ACL submitted to the inquiry drawing attention to the narrow and politically contested approach to examining domestic violence, which frames the issue of domestic violence through a lens of controversial gender theory.

ACL spokeswoman Wendy Francis said: “Domestic violence is a serious issue that needs a sound policy response from government, which is why it is concerning that the inquiry’s terms of reference are so narrow.

“We know that domestic violence is a complex issue, so other contributing factors to domestic violence should have been included in the inquiry.”

The terms of reference go so far as to ask those submitting to consider the role that the marketing of children’s toys plays in domestic violence.

“If we think there is a genuine link between a little boys playing with trucks and becoming abusive husbands, boyfriends and fathers, it seems we are losing touch with reality,” Ms Francis said.

She said she was concerned with the narrow approach of some advocacy groups on this issue that paint domestic violence as an issue only affecting women and children.

“While women are more likely to experience domestic violence then men, both men and women have the capacity to commit violent acts, domestic violence does not only affect women, it affects men too,” she said.

“We know that men make up a significant number of the victims, we also know that domestic violence is both an issue for homosexual and lesbian couples as well as heterosexual couples. The gender inequality approach doesn’t acknowledge that.”

The submission also drew attention to ‘Building Respectful Relationships’, a controversial program in Victorian Secondary Schools that recently received attention in The Australian over the sexualised nature of the content.

ACL also argued that the same contested and politically charged social theory is behind Early Childhood Australia’s ‘Start Early: Respectful Relationships for Life’. The ‘Start Early’ program has received support from the NSW government and trains early childhood educators that ‘gender is a continuum’.

It aims to target children at an early age to reduce gender stereotypes in an effort to prevent violence.

Recommended resources in the program encourage teachers to think about infants as ‘sexual beings’ and contains advice such as the belief it is harmful to talk with young children about the sexual parts of their bodies is ‘a myth’.

“Talking to pre-school children about sexual topics before they are ready risks sexualising them. The deliberate targeting of infants with messages about gender and sexuality is inappropriate. It is the role of parents, not pre-school teachers to have discussions about sensitive topics.” Francis said.