Each year, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, the United Nations initiative of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is marked around the world.
Included in this time frame is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec 6. The National Day of Remembrance marks the most horrific act of violence against women in Canadian history.
It took place in 1989 when Marc Lepine entered an engineering class at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, forced the male students to leave at gunpoint, and then shot 28 students. Fourteen women died, and 10 women and four men were injured. An act of this magnitude is contemptible, reprehensible, and abhorrent.
Since then, violence against women continues to be a societal issue. Last year in Canada, 160 women died a violent death, killed mostly at the hands of men. Apart from killing, the violence also occurs in other forms, including emotional as well as physical.
Thus, the range of violence covers everything from manipulation and controlling actions to name-calling, pushing, stalking, and physical abuse that includes assault, rape, and even murder. Some of these acts are not against the law and society does not otherwise provide much recourse.
When there is media coverage, it is mostly local and soon replaced with other news, with little followup as to the consequences for the perpetrator(s). We need to take notice that violence against women is not going away. It is sad to note that during the pandemic, domestic violence and intimate partner violence has increased. But gender-based violence is not restricted to a household or relationship. It can and does happen at work, and between friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
There are many groups that provide information, hold events to memorialize the National Day of Remembrance and the 16 Days against Gender-Based Violence, and raise awareness through walks and other events. There are government-funded programs at both the provincial and federal level, and sports teams that volunteer to speak out against violence against women, and still the situation does not change. We need to look at the bigger picture, which includes “why” the violence occurs.
Focusing on helping the victims does not treat the cause. Thankfully, there are organizations that are looking at the broader situation and examining the “why.” These groups work to empower men to be leaders in the efforts to end the violence.
Men in sports, entertainment, the military, and workplaces are telling other men that misogynistic attitudes, denigrating comments and jokes about women, and the “boys will be boys” dismissal of bad behaviour are not acceptable.
Organizations like the White Ribbon Campaign and the Moose Hide Campaign are training men to confront their abusive peers, to be allies with women in working to end the violence, and to mentor boys and young men in being respectful of women. To explain more about the causes of violence against women and gender-based violence, and what we can do about it, the Canadian Federation of University Women Vernon will hold a free virtual presentation, titled Be an Agent for Change: On the Road to Eradicating Violence against Women, on Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. To register for the event, send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be sent to you. CFUW Vernon encourages men and women to attend.
Co-Chair for Advocacy
Canadian Federation of University Women Vernon