Today — The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — marks the first of 16 consecutive days of activism rallying against gender-based violence. Something that is still far more prominent than many of us realize.

Violence against women remains of the most pervasive and persistent human rights violations across the world. That includes here in Canada, where The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW)  say that well over 400,000 women report sexual assaults in a single year.

If that number sounds staggering, keep in mind that only about 10% of women report sexual crimes committed against them, so it’s safer to say that over one million Canadian women are sexually assaulted every year.

Another fact from CFUW that might shock you: approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. On any given day in Canada, there are thousands of women (and their children) living in emergency shelters to escape abuse.

Humanity aside, there are also socio-economic and healthcare consequences to politicians ignoring these statistics. The CFUW states that Canada spends over $7 billion per year in direct medical expenses along with criminal justice, social services, and lost productivity costs associated with gender-based violence.

They also point out that “in our society, gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both women and men receive blatant and covert messages that hypersexualize women and portray them as weaker and less important than men.”

“In this context, it becomes easier for some men to rationalize intimidating, dominating, humiliating, controlling and abusing women.”

Some groups experience higher than average rates of violence:
♦ Young women and girls (the vast majority of violent incidences take place before the age of 25)
♦ Aboriginal women (we all know about the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women)
♦ “Racialized women”
♦ Women who have been trafficked or prostituted
♦ Women living with disabilities
♦ Older women (largely physical and financial abuse)

Here is what the Trudeau government plans to do. Feel free to hold your provincial and municipal governments to similar plans:

  • “Launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women; seek recommendations on concrete actions that governments, law enforcement, and others can take to solve these crimes and prevent future ones”.
  • “Give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and ensure that more perpetrators are brought to justice.  We will ensure that no one fleeing domestic violence is left without a place to turn.”
  • “Working together with experts and advocates, we will develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan, aligned with existing provincial strategies.
  • “Increase investments in growing and maintaining Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses, as part of our broader investment in social infrastructure.”
  • “We will amend the Criminal Code to reverse onus on bail for those with previous convictions of intimate partner violence. We will also specify that intimate partner violence be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing, and increase the maximum sentence for repeat offenders.”