Saturday, December 24, 2011

Women, violence and harrassment

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There are two major news stories involving women, and harassment or violence in the headlines today: the recent allegations of gender-based harassment within the ranks of the RCMP, and the massive response to the violent treatment of female Egyptian protesters at the hands of the Egyptian military.

While these particular headlines are relatively new, they do rise out of a backdrop of stories about gender-based discrimination and violence facing women today. Whether it is the stories that come out of the Pickton trial or off the Highway of Tears, or allegations over honor killings, the media has been full of stories over the last year about women here in Canada as well as across the world that have been harmed or even killed for reasons having to do with their gender. Although it is difficult to trace the roots of the problem in some cases, much of the violence appears to stem from beliefs about how women should or should not act, and whether whether some women and girls are, as in the words of some, "disposable".

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kyoto and Canada

Coming right on the heels of the Climate Change Conference in Durban, Canada has announced its decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

The decision has been met with a wide range of reaction, both within Canada and internationally. Many are calling the decision Canada's "lowest point" environmentally speaking, or "shameful" while others hail it as "positive" or opine that we should go one step further and withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that governs the Kyoto Protocol.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Polygamy Ruling Raises Deep Questions about Rights and Responsibilities

In a landmark ruling the BC Supreme Court upheld the prohibition against polygamy to prevent harm to women and children. The ruling’s strong focus on the positive obligations of the state to protect the rights of children sets an important precedent in Canadian jurisprudence. A seeming lack of coherence between citing harm to the institution of monogamous marriage as a ground for prohibition and then allowing plural common law relationships will likely give rise to an appeal. The judgement recognizes that this ruling is an infringement of the right to religious freedom, but argues that it is a justified infringement because of the harm done to women and children.

The ruling raises deeper questions about the nature and scope of human rights, about the balance between different rights when they come into conflict, and about limits to the accommodation of religious and cultural diversity. Probing these issues, which permeate our society, leads back to the philosophical and religious roots of what justice means. Plans by the Institute of Christian Studies to explore what we really mean when we appeal to social justice and human rights in cases like this are timely.

Kathy Vandergrift
Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children