WAWG Op-Ed Hamilton Spectator, Nov 2018

Women’s rights are human rights and we shouldn’t need that reminder

Every person has the right to live a life free of abuse and violence. Yet we have days and months throughout the year that we must be reminded of human rights as they apply to women and girls, writes Nancy Smith.

Nov 29, 2018 by Nancy Smith  Published: Hamilton Spectator

November is designated as Woman Abuse Prevention Month. The Woman Abuse Working Group (WAWG) continually strives to raise awareness of abuse and violence toward women and girls and works toward its elimination. There are other days and months throughout the year that are also notable. Feb. 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation; Feb. 22, Human Trafficking Awareness Day; March 8, International Woman's Day; April, Child Abuse Prevention Month; May, Sexual Abuse Prevention Month; Oct. 4, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Trans People; November, Woman Abuse Prevention Month; Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women; Dec. 6, National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; and Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. Why is it we need days and months designated to bring awareness to issues that continue to harm women and girls? Are we not all responsible to be safe toward others, to treat others respectfully, equitably, safely? With November 2018 behind us, did you know it was Woman Abuse Prevention Month?

Every person has the fundamental right to live safely and securely in their home and in their community. Every person has the right to live a life free of abuse and violence. Yet we have days and months throughout the year that we must be reminded of human rights as they apply to women and girls.

We continue to hear devastating news of men who have intentionally harmed or murdered women. Each November the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) produces a document of the number of women murdered in Ontario during the year. Most of the women were murdered by a partner or ex-partner. It is an extremely sad and tragic time that we must continue to raise awareness that the devastation of abuse and violence toward women and girls remains a pandemic in our society. We are talking gender-based violence as there is extensive research that men are predominately the perpetrator of abuse/violence toward women. Additionally, research identifies when women are at an increased risk of abuse/violence, one of which is specifically when a woman is planning to leave or has just left an abusive partner.

This November was the retrial for the murder of Tania Cowell. The media kept us informed while the jury and members of Tania's family and friends had to endure the graphic details of her murder again.

Sadly, statistics still show us that at least half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and on average every six days in Canada a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. We have a long way to go to eliminate violence against women and girls and all forms of gender-based violence.

Woman Abuse Prevention Month continues to be important as it draws needed light and attention to the issue of gender-based violence in a concentrated (one month) period. Many have heard of the Be More Than A Bystander programs as men are also needed to align with women in working toward the elimination of abuse/violence against women. After all, as men are predominately the perpetrators of abuse toward women and girls, we need our men and all members of society to stand up and speak out against it.

The prevention of abuse and violence toward women and girls must be part of our core values, beliefs and at the top of everyone's agenda, everyday, not just during the month of November. Treating women and girls equitably and safely is not a new year's resolution. A woman's rights are human rights.

In Canada, violence against women and girls costs Canadian taxpayers $7.4 billion. I'm sure we can all think of a better way to spend this money. The life of a woman or girl is priceless. The WAWG is asking everyone to do their part to keep women and girls safe every day, every month, every year.

Nancy Smith is executive director, Interval House of Hamilton and chair, WAWG

 

(To read this article at the Hamilton Spectator online click here)