Patriarchy and violence against women exist in all societies

Patriarchy and violence against women exist in all societies

Media are wrong to focus on 'honour killing' as reason for violence

Published: Tuesday, July 28

Immigrant and Muslim women are often put in a paralyzing position when violence occurs against such women in Canada.

This position is a result of the media's misunderstanding of how patriarchy manifests itself in societies around the world, including North America. This misunderstand forces us and our communities to fight the racism in media reports and readers' commentaries when we should otherwise be facing the challenge of eliminating all forms of control and violence against women and children.

First, we would like to extend our sympathies to those who are grieving the loss of their friends, family and community members - Zainab Shafia, Sahari Shafia, Geeti Shafia and Rona Amir Mohammad.

And although Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Hamed Shafia have been charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, they have been convicted of nothing, so it is important to speak generally about the issue of violence against women and children.

Gender violence must be analyzed comprehensively, not viewed as a "cultural problem" among certain communities. If a white man kills his partner and/or children, he is seen as a murderer and a "bad apple." But when non-whites and non-Christians kill, the crime is often called an "honour killing" and entire communities and cultures are labelled as "backward."

We agree with the statement of Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women: "Violence against women is endemic in societies where men wield control over women's lives" and that patriarchal thinking is not limited to the Middle East and Asia. Indeed, as Adeema Niazi of the Toronto-based Afghan Women's Organization states: "Violence against women exists everywhere."

This violence includes the actions by partners or family members who think they can control the lives of women and children.

We would like to address the false premise in the Canwest News Service article. "Western freedoms a source of family conflict," (Gazette, July 24). The article quotes Dianna Nammi saying that children of immigrants who grow up in Western nations take certain freedoms for granted, and this can lead to conflict with their parents.

Nammi states that when moving to another country, parents bring with them culture, traditions and religion and they "are choosing to show the worst part of that, and the worst and criminal part of that is controlling women."

As an immigrant and a child of immigrants, we feel this assumes that women in other parts of the world are merely victims, not three-dimensional humans fighting to live dignified lives based on justice. Women all over the world are struggling against patriarchal violence.

In Canada, for example, aboriginal women continue to demand justice for more than 500 missing native women. In Afghanistan, women are fighting gender violence within family and local political structures as well as fighting against the violence caused by a foreign invasion.

It is wrong to think that the clash between parents and children is a simple matter of Western-influenced immigrant children vs. their backward parents. Inter-generational differences and conflict are not confined to any region or culture. Around the world, youths are in conflict with their parents about how to live their lives. This is nothing new.

As members of the South Asian Women's Community Centre, we are no strangers to violence against women. The SAWCC, family and friends have been demanding justice for Milia, a young woman of Bangladeshi origin, who was murdered in Angrignon Park more than 10 years ago. The murder has never been solved. SAWCC has also held commemoration events for the Polytechnique women murdered by Marc Lépine as well as participated in countless campaigns demanding an end to violence against women and children.

It is important that the media stop resorting to stereotypes and clichés. Instead, they should analyze gender violence from an anti-racist and anti-patriarchal perspective to contribute effectively to discussions concerning patriarchal violence.

Dolores Chew is a founding member and Farha Najah Hussain is a member of the Montreal based South Asian Women's Community Centre.

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