Is it an epidemic?

thereginamom has continued to read the Twitter hashtag, , and so much more.  She remains deeply moved by the outpouring of experiences shared and the conversations that are happening within various local communities, in the mainstream media, and online.  Though the number of tweets has decreased, the sharing continues.  Never has trm ever been involved in such a powerful online action — and she’s been involved in many, as some of you dear Readers know.

sex assault stats ywcaThis infographic from YWCA Canada startled trm.  It clearly demonstrates the urgent, immediate need for change.  From what trm has read on Twitter we need to change the way reports of rape are handled by police and the justice system.  In order to do that, we need to change the way our culture looks at rape.  We need to end rape culture.

Rape culture was not a term familiar to trm until her daughter went away to university and shared posts about it on Facebook.  trm has learned how her experience of rape is a result of a culture that not so subtly condones rape.

How do we change this, dear Reader, and quickly?

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December 6

Today is the 24th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, that day in 1989 when 14 women were gunned down because they were women. Today, we make a point of remembering:

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Remember the women

Today is Remembrance Day, the day that the regina mom learned was set aside to honour our war veterans, those who fought so we could have peace.  What no one mentioned during her upbringing was the hundreds of thousands of women who suffered as a result of gendered power during times of war.  No one taught her that rape is a weapon of war.

Warring groups use rape as a weapon because it destroys communities totally, says Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men.” Adds Cammaert: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

Rape has been a dishonourable camp follower of war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the 20th century, perceptions of rape in war have moved from something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods to an actual tactic in conflict. The lasting psychological harm that rape inflicts on its victims has also been recognized: Rape is always torture, says Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yes, rape is always torture.  The Amnesty International report, LIVES BLOWN APART, explores some of the horrors experienced by women and girls in war-torn regions

In most of today’s wars, civilian casualties far outnumber those of armed combatants. Women and men both suffer human rights violations in conflicts, such as unlawful killings and torture. However, the particular ways in which women are targeted for violence, or are otherwise affected by armed conflict, are usually overlooked.

Women and girls are more likely to be the target of sexual violence, especially rape. Women face extra, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles to obtaining justice, because of the stigma attached to survivors of sexual violence, and women’s disadvantaged position in society. Whether civilians or combatants, refugees or displaced people, the impact of war weighs particularly heavily on women.

In this report, Amnesty International shows some of the ways in which conflict affects women, and the many different roles which women play in conflict. Women are not only victims and survivors, but also activists, negotiators, peace-builders and human rights defenders. Attempts to address the human rights consequences of conflict, including its particular effects on women, can only be comprehensive and long-lasting if women play an active part in rebuilding society at all levels.

Last month, more than 100 countries agreed  to endorse the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The declaration holds that sexualized violence in conflict is in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and declares that the perpetrators should be pursued and arrested no matter where they are in the world. The declaration also calls upon signatory member states to do more than raise awareness to the issue and to provide better support not only to the victims but to national and international efforts to prevent and respond to sexualized violence in conflict.

80 nations refused to sign the Declaration, including Burma/Myanmar.

The international community, eager to praise these reforms, has neglected to call Burma out on its sexualized violence problem, ignoring the ingrained culture of impunity that has allowed sexualized violence to flourish for decades. The military regime that came to power in a 1962 coup has used rape, particularly against women in the ethnic and border regions, as a way to quell opposition movements and retain control. A weapon of war, the practice is typically employed to keep communities compliant by sowing fear and humiliation and punishing and interrogating those who would support opposition groups. Sadly, the Burmese military junta’s campaign of widespread and systematic sexualized violence continues unabated today.

And, shortly after that, the Government of Canada spoke out about violence against women in times of war.  But, the government refuses to provide funding through its international development program to help women who survive the atrocity and find themselves pregnant as a result and seek to terminate the pregnancy.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How much does the regina mom despise her country of origin right now?  As one who has experienced rape, survived it and come out the other side of it, even though it did not take place in a war zone or a time of war, you can bet it’s more than a little.  The multiple impacts of rape are horrendous, without war thrown into the mix.
AI notes that the consequences of sexual violence experienced by females include “serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, and stigmatization and/or rejection by family members and communities.” Few victims of sexual violence have access to health care in their time of need.
We must do more to end the global war on women.

Sisters In Spirit Under Attack

The HarperCons have gone much too far now!  Apparently, the Sisters In Spirit Campaign, organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has been too successful in raising the awareness about murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada.  Or something.  They’ve done a lot, that’s for sure, including heightening awareness throughout the country, establishing a database of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and co-ordinating vigils in more than 80 communities across the country.  APTN reports that

Status of Women officials had asked the organization [NWAC]  not to use any government money for projects under the name Sisters in Spirit or for work on their vaunted missing and murdered Aboriginal women database.

Alison@Creekside has a thorough post addressing the many issues involved in that, as well as the Cons posturing around it.  Please go read her post!  And the links!  Then come back here and take action:

NDP MP and Critic on the Status of Women, Irene Mathyssen, says that

[D]espite the Conservative government’s praise of Sisters in Spirit (SIS), the recent $10 million announcement to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal women left SIS out. The main voice calling for action on how missing women cases are reported and investigated has been excluded. Many fear this means the end of Sisters in Spirit since the government made it very clear that SIS will not receive any more funding for this project.

Sisters in Spirit, a project under the umbrella of the Native Women’s Association of Canada since 2005, led the way in research regarding missing and murdered aboriginal women. Their April 2010 report, “What Their Stories Tell Us”, identified knowledge gaps that hindered the creation of effective policies and programming to address the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Problems such as different jurisdictions not communicating as happened with the victims of Robert Pickton, delays in starting missing persons investigations if the woman was Aboriginal or in the sex trade, lack of resources for family members to deal with the aftermath of murder, and not enough investments in anti-violence programs and front-line community workers, were all identified by SIS.

Since SIS didn’t receive any of the $10 million, the research they did may be lost as they cannot get funding from any other government department. The minister needs to make it known how this data will be protected and maintained. Sisters in Spirit is the voice for the most vulnerable in Canadian society. Shutting them down after they demonstrated how we are failing Aboriginal women is another example of Conservative bully tactics, and the common conservative practice of trying to cover up embarrassing truths.

She has prepared a petition she will present to the House of Commons. All we have to do is to get the signatories.  Here’s the text.

Petition to the House of Commons –“Sisters in Spirit”
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, draw the attention of the Government of Canada to the
following:
THAT for the past five years, the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) Sisters In Spirit initiative has worked to identify root causes, trends and circumstances of violence that have led to disappearance and death of Aboriginal women and girls;
THAT in March 2010, NWAC released the report “What Their Stories Tell Us” which provided evidence that 582 Aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in Canada; and
THAT the fact that so many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers have been lost to violence in this country makes this the most pervasive human rights crisis facing Canada today.
THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to renew funding for the Sisters In Spirit initiative Phase II “Evidence to Action” and to invest in an “Action Plan for Aboriginal women”, which NWAC has developed, to stop the devastating number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.

 

It’s a paper petition, so it’s a bit more work that we digital activists are used to.  But, it’s a must.  It’s a must for more than partisan reasons.  It’s a must for the betterment of our country and, most importantly, it’s a must for demonstrating our support of and to Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.  Download it now!

Take it to work, take it everywhere you go and get folks to sign it.  Then send it to Irene, free of charge.

In memoriam

Today we pause to mourn the loss of 14 women who, because they were women, were massacred.

Gunman massacres 14 women

Broadcast Date: Dec. 6, 1989

A gunman confronts 60 engineering students during their class at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. He separates the men from the women and tells the men to leave the classroom, threatening them with his .22-calibre rifle. The enraged man begins a shooting rampage that spreads to three floors and several classrooms, jumping from desk to desk while female students cower below. He roams the corridors yelling, “I want women.”

Before opening fire in the engineering class, he calls the women “une gang de féministes” and says “J’haïs les féministes [I hate feminists].” One person pleads that they are not feminists, just students taking engineering. But the gunman doesn’t listen. He shoots the women and then kills himself. Parents of the Polytechnique students wait outside the school crying and wonder if their daughters are among the 14 dead tonight.

The 14 dead were:  Anne St-Arneault, 23; Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klueznick, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; and Annie Turcotte, 21.


December 6, 1989. Sylvie Gagnon was attending her last day of classes at Ecole Polytechnique when a gunman opened fire on women students, yelling “you’re all a bunch of feminists.” Sylvie survived a bullet wound to the head while fourteen other women were murdered. This clip shows testimony from Sylvie Gagnon about what the massacre means to her.


Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.  Today we mourn.  Tomorrow, we organize.