Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Shafia Verdict: A Wake-up Call for Whom?

The guilty verdict in the Shafia trial has inspired headlines like "Shafia trial a wake-up call for Canadian Muslims".  I start feeling uncomfortable when a group is supposed to get a "wake-up call" from a criminal trial. Especially a group that is already facing a growing tide of Islamaphobia. I start feeling worried when said "wake-up call" sets up false identities and irrational divides between us (the suppossed justice-loving Canadians) and them (the generalized honour-killing Muslims). Before we entrench our differences further, let's remember a few key points about domestic violence in Canada.

Most importantly, domestic violence is not a Muslim issue.  Domestic violence is a people issue, a cross-cultural issue, and human rights issue. Domestic violence is Violence Against Womyn, which is an everyone issue.

So before we collectively jump onto our high-horses let's take a moment to remember that in Canada:

- there are over 600 murdered and missing Aboriginal womyn in Canada. This if Violence Against Womyn.

- Robert Picton targetted and murdered womyn in the Lower East Side of Vancouver for years before the RCMP took the reports seriously enough to investigate. This is Violence Against Womyn.

-  There were a 146 female victims of homicide in Canada in 2008. On average, 178 females were killed every year between 1994 and 2008.  This is Violence Against Womyn.

There were 45 female victims of spousal homicide in 2008. Of these, 22 women were killed by their legally married husband, 10 by a common-law partner and 13 by a separated or divorced husband or common-law partner.  This is Violence Against Womyn.

- More than 8 of every 10 victims of spousal violence are female. This is Violence Against Womyn.

- 13% of female victims of spousal violence were victims of major assault in 2007. This is Violence Against Womyn.

- trans-womyn face far higher threat of violence and instances of violence than cis-womyn. This is Violence Against Womyn.

- "the rule of thumb" is commonly understood to refer to the old legal allowance within British Common Law for a husband to beat his wife, particularly if she is nagging, with a switch no bigger than the width of his thumb.

Despite the divisive headlines it was wonderful to read that Imams, community leaders and mosques across Canada are signing the National Call to Eradicate Domestic Violence and a group of Muslim men from the Islamic Institute of Canada have joined the White Ribbon Campaign to end Violence Against Womyn.

Violence Against Womyn is an issue for all ethnicities and genders. Let's understand that this 'wake-up call' is for all of us.

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