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image captionProtesters at the march in Sydney

Thousands of people have gathered for marches in Australia to protest against the sexual assault of women in politics and wider society.

The airing of a raft of allegations in the past month has seized national debate and focused scrutiny on the government.

The protests were organised over a week ago, after Attorney General Christian Porter revealed he was the subject of a 1988 rape allegation – which he denies.

There are over 40 marches nationwide.

A large crowd of March 4 Justice protesters converged on Parliament House in Canberra at midday local time (01:00 GMT).

Organisers will present a petition with over 90,000 signatures calling for greater accountability of sexist behaviours in parliament.

image captionProtesters outside of Parliament House in Canberra have called for the government to meet them

They have also called for Mr Porter to stand aside. Police have closed their case against the attorney general, but others have argued for a separate inquiry into the allegation against him.

Crowds have also formed in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities, with some of the rallies granted exemptions from coronavirus health orders restricting gathering sizes.

About 3,000 protesters turned out in Perth on Sunday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged the protests and invited a small group of organisers to meet with him in Parliament House.

However this was rejected by the organisers who said the prime minister, as well as the government’s Minister for Women, should attend the rally and address their concerns there. All but one government lawmaker has declined to attend.

“We have already come to the front door, now it’s up to the Government to cross the threshold and come to us. We will not be meeting behind closed doors,” tweeted march organiser Janine Hendry.

Australian politics has been rocked by a wave of sexual assault allegations, and protesters feel the government’s response has been inadequate.

When former political adviser Brittany Higgins, 26, spoke out last month about her alleged rape by a colleague in parliament in 2019, it kicked off a series of other allegations.

Many have called for the government to investigate the historical allegation against Mr Porter, the nation’s top law officer.

image captionA protester outside Parliament House in Canberra

However Mr Morrison has resisted such calls, after police closed an investigation on they basis they had insufficient evidence to proceed. The alleged victim died last year.

On Monday, Mr Porter said he would sue the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for defamation over the allegations.

However, the protesters want an independent inquiry to be held into Mr Porter’s case as well as other alleged sexual assaults in Australian politics.

Critics say the government has also been too slow and ineffective in responding to wider accusations of sexism and misogyny in parliamentary culture – a problem they say extends across party lines.

On Monday, the Labor opposition said it would also review its culture after dozens of anonymous allegations of sexual harassment and sexism against male figures within its party.

Protesters have also argued the government’s treatment of those who have spoken out so far has been unacceptable.

Ms Higgins’ former boss, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, was forced to apologise and pay compensation to her former aide, after calling her a “lying cow”.

Ms Higgins has also criticised Mr Morrison for using “victim-blaming” language in discussing her case – an assertion he rejects.