Aqsa Parvez, 17, slain in the name of family honor in 2007. Amandeep Kaur Dhillon, 22, stabbled to death by her father-in-law due to dowry disputes in 2009. Khatera Sadiqi, 20, was fatally shot by her brother in 2006. Farah Khan, 5, brutally murdered and dismembered by her father and step-mother in 2000.
While these individuals may be of different age groups, they have something in common. The burden of being a female in a South Asian household. The acts of brutality and violence against women have been commonplace in the subcontinent, most common are the rituals like karo-kari – honor killings; female infanticide; spousal abuse and dowry related deaths.
As the immigrant populations grow in Canada, so does the concept of values synonymous with these cultures. However, South Asians need to make sure that such social ills stay away and try to eradicate such practices from communities abroad.
Women are not only facing abusive households, but they also are underrepresented in the sectors of education, law and order, and health and well being.
While cases of violence are not as common in the South Asian communities in Canada as they are in South Asian, they need to be addressed none the less. South Asians abroad need to be shining examples for their counterparts. Violence against women should not be tolerated what-so-ever. A strong stand should be taken to help battered women in Canada and in the subcontinent, both emotionally and financially.
Newspapers and media outlets only share stories of extreme cases. Usually, moderate cases of domestic violence and verbal and psychological abuse go unnoticed by outsiders. Friends of Amandeep Dhillon and Aqsa Pervez tell us that both were afraid for their lives and suffered constant emotional and physical abuse months before they were brutally killed. However, nothing was done by anyone to save these women from meeting their untimely demise.
In a male dominated society, like that of South Asia, there is an extreme need for addressing family violence. Women need to be told of their rights, and a way out of abusive relationships should be made clear. Tougher laws need to be introduced and implemented to counter domestic violence. Laws such as the British domestic violence laws, where the courts will continue the prosecution against the suspects, even if the victims take back their statements. This shows that the lawmakers are aware of victims being strong-armed by their families or communities to take back the pleas of help. Such laws could help lower the rates of domestic violence in any society.
There is a need for help lines for South Asian women facing abusive relationships. The police and the government should take action to show their support for the women. Leaving behind an abusive relationship, should be welcomed by members of the family. South Asian community leaders need to stop shying away from talking against domestic violence. This is not a personal matter, as it is clear from the fact that South Asians have the highest rate of domestic violence in Canada. There must be something wrong, and the leaders need to address and try their best to correct the wrong sentiments which many males harbour about women.
The sad reality is that most of the atrocities, which are perpetrated against women, are seen as family or private issues. Outsiders are not welcome to comment or to offer help. This can easily be the reason why most victims keep their lips sealed, which leads the perpetrators to continue their vicious triad.
If we do nothing today, tomorrow it will be our daughters, our sisters who will be facing the wrath of silence and an abusive society.
Author: Qasim A. Nihang
Honour Killings are “heinous” and “have no place in Canada” – Minister Ambrose
“Killing or mutilating anyone, least of all a family member, is utterly unacceptable under all circumstances,” Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Status of Women, said at Punjabi Community Health Services in Mississauga.
“Repression, oppression and violence to maintain a family’s honour may even happen because a girl wants to wear westernized clothing, date a boy who may not be from her own religion or culture or simply wanting to wear make-up.”
The minister’s appearance at the Punjabi Community Health Services offices on Derry Rd. came after the weekend release of a report that examines abuse of women and girls in immigrant communities across the country.
The report, authored by social worker Aruna Papp for the Frontier Centre on Public Policy, contains 14 recommendations for the federal government, including mandatory orientation for male sponsors and the women they sponsor about Canadian rights.
The report recommends that sponsoring men should have criminal checks done in Canada and the country they came from to determine if there is any record of violence in their past.
Ambrose said Ottawa has already begun counseling sessions for women coming to Canada in their home country and is looking at implementing other recommendations in the report.
Ambrose said up to 5,000 women and girls are the victims of honour killings around the world each year.
Papp’s report said there have been 15 such killings in Canada since 2002.
The report points to killings such as the New Year’s Day 2009 slaying of Amandeep Kaur Dhillion in Malton and the December 2007 murder of Mississauga teen Aqsa Parvez, both which had overtones of “honour” killings to redeem a family’s reputation.
Papp said she crafted the report after noticing that violence issues have spread to second-generation immigrant families.
She said most cases involves families in the South Asian community, where people are afraid to speak out against family violence because they fear it will bring negative attention to their community.
Ambrose said the federal government is also considering adding honour killing to the Criminal Code of Canada.
Baldev Mutta, CEO of the Punjabi health centre, said it’s important to recognize honour killings for what they are so that root issues can be addressed to prevent them in the future.
“We told the minister that when something bad happens, that is the thing that gives a community a bad name, not talking about how we’re going to address that in Canada,” he told the Star.
“If we don’t uphold Canadian values of peace, equality, decency, working together and obeying Canadian laws, we will be in for a long haul where some reactionary elements within each ethnic community will hijack the agenda.
“That will be a disaster in the making,” she continued.
“We cannot say there’s a huge number of cases, but now the cases are increasing, and very soon we’ll have a problem in Canada,” said Amin Muhammad, a professor of psychiatry at Memorial University of Newfoundland who specializes in transcultural psychiatry.
“Honour killing is a premeditated murder based on a cultural mindset that people bring with them. It is a wrong notion of perceived notion of dishonour to the family,” Dr. Muhammad said.
“They restore the honour of the family by eliminating the wayward person. That has been going on through the ages in many countries and now in the United States and the United Kingdom. And in Canada.
“There are a number of organizations which don’t accept the idea of honour killing; they say it’s a Western-propagated myth by the media, but it’s not true,” he said. “Honour killing is there, and we should acknowledge it, and Canada should take it seriously.”