Advance View: Begin fighting violence at home

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In Canada, our first thought is usually about what we might be able to do for unfortunate women who live in oppressive societies in other parts of the world. 

It’s easy to associate the problem with Middle Eastern countries like Iran, where legal restrictions on women’s rights and movements result in harsh punishments for what we would consider minor infractions (if we see them as “infractions” at all).

An assault on women’s freedoms in Turkey has been making the news. Turkey’s president has asserted outright that women are “not equal” to men, while suggesting that the “special status” accorded to mother in Islam – his view of Islam, at least – makes it all right.

After a few decades of an apparently growing global awareness of the rights of women, it seems things are moving back towards darkness.

But the problem isn’t “over there.”

It’s right here at home. Up to 50 per cent of women in this country have suffered sexual or physical abuse. The concept of “equal pay for work of equal value” still wins derisive laughter from many men, despite the fact that it is a significant problem with the wage gap running at anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent, depending on sources.

Those are rough estimates, but here are some more solid numbers – Statistics Canada has determined that, every night in this country, an average of more than 3,000 women are sleeping in shelters to escape abuse, and an average of more than 400 per day can’t be accommodated by Canada’s 600 or so existing shelters.

Women are 11 times more likely than men to suffer sexual violence. In Canada.

And children are often caught in the middle when Mom gets beat up or can’t get a decent job and feels she has to live in fear of Dad.

Violence against women gets international attention. But the solutions have to start right here at home.

The Soroptimists of the Langleys are hosting a Candlelight Vigil at 5 p.m. Nov. 25 at McBurney Plaza in downtown Langley City. The public is invited to join them to commemorate the United Nations 10th Annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

As well the Soroptimists are asking people to display their views against violence by taking part in the Orange Your Neighbourhood campaign. This year, the United Nations Secretary­ General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood.”

Wear something orange and join Soroptimist Club members and show your commitment to the 16 Days of Activism. From Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a global effort created by the United Nations.

– B.G.

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