Community Safe: End Sexual Violence
Speech delivered on
Wednesday September 15, 2004-09-15
at Media Conference
I am pleased to be among you today. I am confident
that the campaign, “Make my Community Safe,” launched by the OCRCC (The
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centers) will strengthen the battle to eliminate sexual violence and that is a
positive move towards building a better society for all. I encourage
everyone to participate actively in supporting not only this campaign,
but all campaigns of this nature.
As an activist for Women’s equality in Iran; as
a transitional counselor who works directly with abused women,
particularly battered immigrant women; and as a founder of the Campaign
against Sharia court in Canada, I have consistently opposed the
involvement of religion in the justice system.
would like to describe the situation of women and young girls living in
the so called Islamic communities of Ontario.
Girls are segregated from
boys at a very young age in Islamic schools and are forced, at this
tender age, to wear veils (Islamic Hijab) and are prohibited from
participating in sports and games in playgrounds.
Sexual assault is permitted by forcing girls as young as 13 into
arranged marriages. Parents are given the right to deprive their
daughters of education. Children are isolated from mainstream society.
Polygamy (the practice of having more than one wife at the same time)
is becoming the norm in these communities through the application
of Sharia law.
picture this reality: In these communities more than half of the population
is oppressed by the imposition of
backward traditions. Having a boyfriend is taboo. A women who
disobeys gender norms may be disowned by her family and harassed by her
community. And the sad part
is, the government of Ontario, despite the awareness raised by women’s
activists and the Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada, not only has
kept quiet, but also, through its silence, legitimized the oppression,
inequality and injustice in the name of respecting other cultures.
the government of Ontario
has already generated an atmosphere of fear and religious indoctrination
among Moslem women. It is not an exaggeration to say that the
Arbitration Act 1991 has already justified two sets of values and rights
for the residents of Ontario
If we are for safer communities by ending
sexual violence; if we are for state intervention to protect children by
use of a child protection law; if we are for “equal rights for all”,
for, “one law for all” irrespective of sex, race, religion and
ethnicity, then we should not hesitate to call upon the authorities to
empower battered immigrant women by removing family law from the
Arbitration Act 1991. By providing battered women with appropriate
support systems, the women would learn to understand their rights, such
as the right to leave the abusers, the right to charge the abusers and
the right to integrate into Canadian society.
then we can ensure a safe place for all women.