Why Wynne government mum on statements over sexual violence against women?



In November, Premier Kathleen Wynne has unveiled Ontario’s latest public education campaign on sexual violence and harassment with an ad depicting behaviours that some Ontarians may have trouble recognizing as sexual violence or harassment including inappropriate comments regarding one’s sexuality, lewd looks and suggestions from the coworkers, and the expectation of sexual favours following a date.

The video, created by Leo Burnett and debuted at the 2015 Summit on Sexual Violence and Harassment, is a continuation of the province’s $41-million multimedia awareness campaign, a pillar of the Wynne government’s goal of ending sexual harassment and violence in Ontario. “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” released in March 2015, aims at tackling the roots of sexual violence and harassment, and improving supports and services for survivors.

Since its’ launch, Ontario’s #WhoWillYouHelp TV spot has reached over 85 million people worldwide, and the number of Ontarians who believe they have an obligation to intervene if they witness sexual violence has increased since March 2015 from 37 to 58 percent.

Statistic shows that one in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime; 28 per cent of Canadians say they have been on the receiving end of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or sexually charged talk while on the job.

However, Ipsos Reid poll, commissioned by the province, has shown that, many Ontarians are still unsure which behaviours constitute sexual violence and harassment. This new ad aims to help Ontarians identify sexual violence and harassment when it happens, so that they are able to step in and help.

Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, said: “It is our responsibility as a government to ensure all Ontarians feel safe in their communities, workplaces, homes and schools, free from sexual violence and harassment. While this research shows progress, there is much work still to be done. We are calling on all Ontarians, through their actions and attitudes, to make change happen. We all have a role to play in stopping sexual violence and harassment.”

According to Ontario government website, sexual violence is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or force. It includes unwanted sexual advances or comments; selling or attempting to sell someone for sex; acts of violence directed against an individual because of their sexuality, regardless of the relationship to the victim.

Sexual violence against women is rooted in misogyny, a notion that women are inferior to men, which can be manifested in sexual discrimination, violence and sexual objectification of women and girls. It is historically true that for centuries, women had fewer rights in regards to property ownership and choice of marriage, solely dependent on their fathers, brothers and/or husband to provide for them. However, society has evolved and today, at least here in Canada, we pride ourselves to be a stronghold of equality in regards to ones’ gender and sexuality.

It seems, though, that some of the archaic notions in regards to women are still existent and are reinforced here in Canada by the Muslim community leaders, and Canadians actually accept these as cultural things and live it alone.

CIJnews previously reported that Shazim Khan, the Imam of al-Salaam mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, in a a speech at Abu Huraira Center in Toronto few years ago, explained that the wife must always respond to her husband’s call to bed unless she has a genuine reason.

This notion was taken further by Bilal Philips, the Canadian Muslim scholar, in his book “Contemporary Issues” from 2002, where he explained that the scenario of a wife being raped by her husband is generally irrelevant to Muslims. He stated that, even though in Western society if the husband desires sexual relations and she does not and he insists it is considered rape, “[in] Islam, a woman is obliged to give herself to her husband and he may not be charged with rape.”

Sheikh Musleh Khan, Director of Education at the Khalid bin Walid Mosque in Toronto, at his webinar ‘The Heart of The Home: The Rights And Responsibilities of A Wife’ in March 2013 also said that the wife should make herself available to her husband, after marriage has taken place and he has given the mahr [dowry], she should not withhold this right from her husband without a valid excuse (sickness, obligatory fasting etc.), and if she refuses without a valid reason then she has committed a major sin: “Even some scholars went as far as saying that even if it doesn’t feel right, or you’re just not in that emotional relationship you know it’s not the right manner, you’re not feeling that at that particular time, still try to make it happen, still try to force yourself even if you have to do that.”

York Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) held in campus (February 23-27, 2015) the annual event of Islam Awareness Week bearing the title “What Does The Qur’an Say?”

York MSA Female students wearing hijab and niqab, who manned the Info Booth at the Central Square of York University, handed out to students the book “Women in Islam & Refutation of some Common Misconceptions,” authored by the Saudi scholar Dr. Abdul-Rahman al-Sheha and printed by the Saudi Dawah organization Muslim World League (رابطة العالم الاسلامي). For Blogwrath’s report on the event clickhere.

The following are excerpts of the book: “Although beating of women is generally forbidden, Islam permits the beating of wives in a restricted and limited sense only as a final solution and acceptable valid reason when all else fails… Allah deals with the case of a wife who behaves immorally towards her husband’s rights. The treatment of this extremely sensitive issue comes in gradual stages… Third and final stage: Beating without hurting, breaking a bone, leaving black or blue marks on the body, and avoiding hitting the face or especially sensitive places at any cost. The purpose of beating her is only to disciplineThis treatment is proved to be very effective with two types of women… The first type: Strong willed, demanding and commandeering women… The second type: Submissive or subdued women. These women may even enjoy being beaten at times as a sign of love and concern… Beating, according to the Islamic teachings, is listed as the last and final stage of disciplining methods.”

The other notion that some Canadian Muslim leaders are continuously reinforcing and justifying is that the man has a right of gheerah (protected jealousy) over his wife – the idea that a wife should be obedient to her husband at all times, not admitting anyone husband dislikes, ask her husband’s permission before leaving the house, before talking to other men or hold a job of her own.

This can be interpreted by feminists as another example of deeply seated misogyny, when a woman is seen as one of men’s possessions, instead of another human being, meant to serve her husband’s every wish and maintain his honour.

More on this issue at Wife “beating in Islam is a type of education”: Canadian Islamic perspective.

One of the points of Ms. Wynne’s campaign states: “Just because someone buys you dinner or a drink, doesn’t mean you owe them sex in return.” It could be also said then, that if someone provides for you because you are bound by the union of marriage it shouldn’t mean that you have to repay your husband by accepting rape and losing any control over your life.

CIJnews reached out to Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Government of Ontario, asking why Ontario Campaign to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment does not address the issue of Canadian spiritual community leaders condoning what is perceived as sexual violence and prejudice against women, while using religion to justify it?

CIJnews also inquired whether this campaign was faith restricted and Canadians should just accept that some women will continue to face sexual violence and harassment because of the culture they were born in.

No comment was received at the time of the publication

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