Tag

laws

Browsing

Let’s end violence against women and girls

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, more and more women are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Women and young girls are finding that powerful voice within them to speak out against sexual violence and crimes against women in general.

On Nov. 25, the United Nations will lead the annual worldwide campaign marking the start of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  This will be a 16-day campaign with hundreds of events worldwide.

One in three women are affected by violence. According to the UN, 19 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have said they experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last year. In 2012, almost half of all women who were murdered, were killed by an intimate partner or family member. The same can be said of only 6 per cent of male victims.

The theme for the campaign is Leave No one Behind, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these issues and not allowing them to be normalized. The campaign will educate the public on the types of violence women face and mobilize change.

During these 16 days, iconic buildings worldwide will be lit up in orange, the colour officially associated with the day. Orange symbolizes a brighter future without violence. Local events that could spring up in your city include marches, flash-mobs, concerts, football and rugby games, as well as other unique and creative public events to bring awareness to the issue. The hope is that this movement will mobilize governments and the public to take part in the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s umbrella campaign to end violence against women by 2030.

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Guterres said in a statement. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

The rise of the #MeToo campaign on social media has awoken a global protest against sexual harassment and assault. Through this hashtag, women are sharing their stories of violence afflicted towards them from even politicians and celebrities. These women are acting as examples for others, finally bringing some of their attackers to justice. UN Women is now working towards implementation new laws and policies that will offer women and young girls further protection.

The specific theme this year is also directed at refugees and migrants who are at a higher risk of being targeted for abuse. This recognition covers all women and girls despite their age, race, religion, income or citizenship. Women and girls need to be protected and offenders should be prosecuted to ensure that there is a societal message of  a zero-tolerance policy  towards violence of any kind.

For over 20 years, UN Women has been supporting various organizations around the world that have proactively taken steps in reducing community violence directed towards women. Earlier this year there was a collaborative effort with the European Union on a special spotlight initiative focusing on domestic, family , sexual, violence, human trafficking and labor exploitation. This included an initial investment of $500 million (EUR) by the EU.

To show your support during the 16 day campaign, use the hashtag, #orangetheworld and #16days. You can also change your profile picture by adding an orange filter.

The nasty reality of gun control and mass shootings in the US

During 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship, gunshots rang out in the air at the small First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, tried to make his escape, but once cornered, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  This event marked the 307th mass shooting in the United States for 2017.

This is a small number in comparison to 2016, which proved to be even higher at 477 incidents.  A mass shooting, in its simplest definition,  is the killing of four or more people at the same time. So far, 26 people have died, with the number expected to rise  due to severe injuries. As Americans and the world anxiously awaited a response from US President Donald Trump, who is on a five-country Asian tour, more details emerged about the alleged shooter, painting him as volatile, with a history of violence and disgruntled after bing dismissed from the US Air Force.

President Trump’s response to the shooting at a news conference in Japan was direct and once again avoided the broader issue of gun violence by narrowing it down to the events of the tragic shooting.

“This isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event. A very, very sad event, but that’s the way I view it,” Trump told the room of reporters in Japan.

Trump also made the comment that mass shootings can happen anywhere, while ironically standing in a country with no record of mass shootings and very strict control of gun laws.

This dangerous response may, unfortunately, be similar to what a lot of other Americans are thinking. However, there are some people that are wondering how many mass shootings it will take before the gun control laws in the United States are revisited? A similar response came from the president just last month during the deadly mass shooting in Vegas which killed close to 60 people.

Sadly, hearing about mass shootings in America has become common place. If the situation is not blamed on mental health, it is blamed on terrorism. The bigger issue, which seems to be obvious to everyone else in the world, is the accessibility to guns. The fact that you can buy guns at the same time you do your grocery shopping at Walmart is appalling. Walmart in the United States sells firearms for the aim of ‘hunting or sporting’, but just like animals, guess what— humans can be hunted too.

The debate on gun control in the United States continues as almost half of gun users feel that owning a gun is part of their American identity. However, can we stop narrowing down these tragic events and fight to fix the bigger issue?  Because without access to these deadly tools, 26 more lives could have been saved.

While President Trump blames this incident on mental health, in February 2017 he signed a bill undoing the work of former President Barack Obama to prevent those who were mentally ill from purchasing weapons. The bill stated that for those mentally unfit be added to a background check database. In doing this, President Trump had now made it easier for persons with mental illness to purchase weapons. So, is this really a mental illness problem? When will America admit the problem isn’t the people — it’s that all of these people have guns?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Ontario implements new condo board laws

The Ontario government will implement new condo laws in the fall that is said to “ better protect condo owners and residents by increasing consumer protections in Ontario’s condo communities.”

The media has reported on a number of issues involving condo boards, including conflicts of interest and possible corruption. These new laws will provide more education to those that sit on these boards and ensure more transparency as to the process.

One of the biggest changes will be to improve corporation governance and introduce disclosure requirements for directors. This means that all condo directors must indicate whether or not they occupy units in the condo or if they have interests in contracts involving the corporations. Condo directors will also be given mandatory training to improve management and operations.

New voting and quorum rules will be implemented to make it easier for owners to participate. The board must also update the condo corporation regularly to help improve communications.

To aide in this transition, the government will be creating two new administrative authorities — the Condominium Authority of Ontario and the Condominium, which will educate and promote awareness of condo owner rights, and the Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which will help regulate and licence managers and providers.

“Creating new consumer protections will help to build more sustainable condo communities so residents moving into condos today and in the future will be able to look forward to healthy condo communities and peace of mind in the place they call home,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, in a statement.

These new rules will be implemented on Sept. 1 and phased in throughout the year.

What do you think of the Muslim ‘girl in offensive clothing’?

It was the snap seen around the world. Just six seconds long, but enough to change a woman’s life forever.

On Monday, a woman was casually seen walking in the desert streets in a short skirt and a black crop top. It is summer after all, and she probably wanted to stay cool in the heat. However, she was in Saudi Arabia, a country where there are strict laws regarding how women dress and feminine identity.

As the woman smiled and coyly looked at the camera before sauntering on, this visual opened up an entire investigation into her identity, her whereabouts, and eventually her arrest.

The girl in the video has since been detained by the Saudi police and a special investigation is being held for the “girl in offensive clothing.” The case is being handled by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also known as the religious police.

So why is this act considered offensive?

Saudi Arabia is a strict muslim country and there are certain rules that women  must obey or risk being punished. While in public, women are expected to be covered from head to toe, literally. They are required to wear something called an abaya ( a long black robe), a hijab ( a headscarf), and finally a veil to cover their faces, where normally only the eyes are visible.

In other muslim countries, the rules of dress may vary and some places in Dubai have signs posted asking their customers to wear respectful clothing , where shoulders and knees should be covered. There is also a law in Dubai which prohibits men and women from drinking alcohol, kissing, holding hands, and, most obviously, having sex in public.

Each county comes with their specific set of rules that residents have to abide by or risk being punished. Doesn’t the same go for Canada? Public sex is illegal in this country as well as displays of indecent exposure. There are also various laws concerning alcohol. In Quebec, you can easily purchase alcohol at your local grocery or corner store, but in Ontario, there are designated places to purchase alcohol such as the Beer Store and the LCBO.

My point is that every country, or even provinces, have different laws to govern and while the rules of Saudi Arabia are deemed oppressive towards women, there will always be a debate whether to support or punish. Another case making the headlines in Saudi Arabia, for example, relates to women being able to drive in the country. It is illegal for women to drive due to deep religious beliefs in which female drivers are said to undermine social values of the country. In 2011, there was a campaign in protest entitled “Women2Drive” where women were encouraged to show themselves driving on social media.

There are still various groups that advocate for female rights in Saudi Arabia, as women are still required to have male guardianship for government services, including applying for a passport or travelling abroad. A woman must get consent from her husband, father, or other male relative.

As for the woman in in the short snap, she continues to be the subject of a questionable debate, highlighting the issues of women’s rights in strict muslim countries. By the way, the viral video of that woman was shared without her knowledge — not cool friend, not cool !

My tears over Sochi and the IOC

When the ignorance of governments, businesses, and organizations is overwhelming we can’t forget what we are fighting for.

I cried twice this summer.

I’m not much for crying, I have a tendency to express my deepest feelings through irreverence and sarcasm. This year, perhaps showing my advancing age, I found myself twice at a total loss for words and broke down in tears.

The first was during Toronto Pride. I was spending my Saturday at a garden party in the gay village and wandered away from my friends in search of a drink. The beer table was located not too far from the makeshift dance floor right beside a splash pad and jungle gym. I got into line and took stock of the scene in front of me.

Young friends laughing with each other enjoying the ambiance, old couples holding hands without fear of slurs or hatred. I saw a straight mother in her fifties dancing with her twenty-something gay son and his partner.

My moment turned into a living cliché as an acoustic version of “Born This Way” came over the speakers I saw two toddlers splashing each other calling out in opposite to directions, one to her two dads and one to his two moms. I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I turned into a sobbing, blubbering idiot.

In that moment I wished I could invite anyone who thinks there is something bad or wrong about being gay to stand with me and take it in.

I cried because it was everything we’ve ever worked towards. It was everything I had ever hoped to see in my lifetime. It was love, happiness, and unequivocal acceptance. It was just right.

My second set of tears came just the other day on the streetcar upon reading that the International Olympic Committee has sided with the Russian government, agreeing that gay and gay friendly athletes expressing themselves would be espousing some kind of political agenda and should be punished, either by arrest at the hands of the Russian police or reprimand from the Olympics themselves.

I thought of all the brave Russian people who are trying their best to survive right now and cried for them, and I cried thinking about how this opportunity for the men and women of the IOC to stand up and exhibit just one sliver of the bravery that these Russians show every day had reduced them to sniveling cowards.

The organizing body behind games meant for international cooperation threw the fags and dykes under the bus.

They’re in good company.

Amidst calls for Canada, harbringer of anti-discrimination laws and gay marriage, to pull out of the games in response to Russia’s draconian, hate-fueled laws there has been little response. Who cares about these homos anyway? Pulling out would punish the athletes, and apparently playing a game is more important than the livelihood and human rights of those stupid fags.

Our national broadcaster, despite having a number of queers they keep behind the desk to deliver you the news, sees it fit to continue covering the games. The excuse the CBC has cooked up is limp at best, using the Kremlin’s homophobic spectre over the games as an excuse to continue traditional sports coverage as if it were also news, despite the fact that they would be in direct contravention of Canada’s Human Rights Act to send (or not send) any gay reporters there to watch curling and speed skating. Besides, they just spent $100 million in taxpayer money to broadcast the games — the livelihood and human rights of those stupid fags obviously isn’t worth that much.

Sponsors Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, two of the biggest brand names in the world, haven’t made any motions towards stripping their names from the Sochi games, despite having both funded two of the largest gay celebrations in the world in NYC and San Francisco in recent years. I mean, bigots and homophobes eat Big Macs and drink Coke too, right? So, despite having already pledged their support to gay rights in the past, these big brands have to get their advertising while it’s good, nevermind us stupid fags.

When I cried on the streetcar they were tears of exhaustion. What can any one of us little people do in the face of giants like governments and multinational corporations and groups?

Part of me feels utterly defeated. Every broken bottle at Stonewall and every chant at the Toronto Raids worth nothing. Every gay person being arrested in the 38 African nations where it is a criminal offence worth nothing. Every single drop of blood from every single stupid fag like Matthew Sheppard worth nothing, and it has brought us here, to a place where we can’t even convince our own government, media, or businesses that we are human beings worth respecting or even protecting.

It is so frustrating and overwhelming to see my people being arrested and murdered, to see that all of our voices shouting can do so little.

And then I remember that scene in the park and I get it.

I’ve seen the perfect world, the one we are fighting for. I’ve felt the love, happiness, and acceptance all around me in one fleeting moment and I know that we can’t ever stop fighting until that world is real for us and for everyone around the world all the time.

If the IOC will side with the Russians we will shout twice as loud until our voices are heard. If Coca-Cola will sponsor these games we’ll dump it out in the street with the Stoli. If Stephen Harper and the CBC won’t pull out in order to send a message to Russia that these are despicable, evil laws we will bang on every door, write every letter, sign every petition, and march in every street until we are heard.

There is no giving up. Human rights and dignity are all or nothing. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to save our brothers and sisters in Russia and around the world, and if us little people scream loud enough in the ears of giants we can begin to change the future.

And if we can’t be respected and protected for who and what we are in this life than I can pray it will become true within the lives of my children, so that when they see the love, happiness, and acceptance surrounding a gay family in the park they won’t stop and cry, they won’t pause and reflect. They won’t even bat an eye.

 

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.