Monday, January 30, 2012

Guilty verdicts in Kingston -- a turning point in the war against women?

The struggle for equal rights never ends and must never end.    Recent events in two parts of the world, seemingly disconnected but linked by the common element of who the targets are, are a reminder of this.

Firstly, the guilty verdicts yesterday in Kingston in the so-called "honour killings" of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia and Rona Mohammad Amir are not only welcome but perhaps finally causing the discussion we should have been having all these years.   I'm not just talking about deliberately killing women because they just want to be themselves; it's that people bring their preconceived notions of what's right and wrong to Canada.   Moreover there seems to be a willingness to completely isolate oneself from the community at large and force one's children born here to act and comply as if it is "the old country."

But what I find even more incredible is that this was not a case of refugees gone bad.   No, one of the convicts, Mohammed Shafia, bought his way into Canada, via the Québec immigrant investor program.    The others, second wife Tooba Yahya  and son Hamed Shafia, managed to get in under suspicious circumstances.   Of course Mr Shafia couldn't bring in both of his wives into Canada since polygamy is illegal here but he came up with a BS story that Ms Yahya was his cousin, and numb-nuts immigration officers overseas didn't run a background check.

I suppose there is a reason why we have to have a business class of immigrants; every province in fact runs a program although Québec's always seems to be the highest profile.   It's because we need those skills and if it means fast-tracking the naturalization process then so be it.   But is it too much to ask some questions beyond the normal questions we'd expect?

And it's not just would-be Canadians.    It happens in long-established communities here as well and in all religious groups.   Sadly, there are going to be more tragedies like this one.   Every province will have its own goals on what it needs to achieve from immigration from all classes but surely we can all agree that leadership starts from the top, and that in particular it's the licensed religious leaders of all faiths who need to take a stand.    Child protection authorities need to be more vigilant as well.    There are far too many false apprehensions which cause nothing but grief on their own, but it's the failure to act even when victims don't want the help but obviously need it that's outrageous.

It's good to hear most Muslims in Canada and their leadership want to stop the cycle of violence.    But it all goes back to where it begins.   If someone wanting to come here to Canada refuses to recognize the equality of women, they should not even bother applying.    If someone already here refuses to recognize equal rights for women and acts on that notion, the full force of the law should be applied.

This leads somewhat awkwardly to what's been going on in a number of places as of late and secular vs religious Jews.    We have all heard about women who have been "ordered" to go to the back of the bus by ultra-orthodox Jews, or the eight year old who was attacked for the dress she was wearing to school and by grown men.    Or even in Montréal a few years back when a women's only exercise studio caved into some radicals who said they wanted the windows tinted because they thought a woman in skin-tight exercise gear was offensive.

Set aside the principle that you should pick on someone your own size -- and gender.   Many of these men have managed to get around mandatory conscription laws for far too long.   They don't even have to subscribe to alternate service, such that existed in most Allied countries during World War II.

It's good to see people fighting back, in small but measurable ways.

The major principle I think we need to get around is that while as a secular society we are very accommodating to all ethnic groups and religions -- consider how boring dining would be if there weren't the choices of food out there, particularly Middle East and South Asian -- there has to be a limit to where we say this is what we are all about.    That there are common values we all hold to.   I'm not saying we have to agree on everything, because then we would not be a democracy any more.   We need to however say that there is a point where we are willing to reasonably accommodate each other but at a certain point we need to have common rules of the road.

Because in this particular case whether we like it or not, religious based "tribunals" of all religions (and we see agitation to allow these alternate forms of arbitration, be it Sharia for Muslims, the Beth Din for Jews, the Curial courts for Catholics, etc.) are almost always stacked against women.   Until relatively recently, even the law here was constructed to be against women.    Women who were married weren't allowed to get their own property until the 1970s.  We forget easily that spousal assault didn't even exist as a crime in Canada until 1983 and the principle of "no means no" wasn't enacted until a decade after that.

I've said this before and I'll say it again -- we need to see this for what it is, a war against women.   There are too many men and sadly even many women too, who openly and enthusiastically support femicide.    Until we all get around to this fact and push back, more will die.   The longer we let this go on, sooner or later we'll get to the point where the blood will be sticking on our hands rather than those of the perpetrators.

To be honest I breathed a sigh of relief when the guilty verdicts came down yesterday.   It's unfortunate however that the four life sentences each of the Montréal Three got are concurrent -- frankly a hundred year sentence is call for, not twenty-five.   Actually, I would have gone even further, invoked  that this was a crime of hate as an aggravating circumstance, and doubled it to two hundred years.

UPDATE (7:46 pm EDT, 0046 GMT 01-31-2012):   Minor edits.

1 comment:

Fred from BC said...

"War against women"?

Oh, please...