OPINION: Ending inequality and violence against women

Mitzi Dean

BY MITZI DEAN
Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity

EVERY week in British Columbia, an estimated 1,000 women are physically or sexually assaulted. These assaults happen at work, at school and at home. They happen in communities of every kind – urban and rural. And they need to stop.

Each year, from November 25 to December 10, governments, organizations, communities and individuals band together to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. These 16 days are a rallying cry for real action to end violence against women, girls, transgender, non-binary, and two-spirit people. They are a call for us all to work together to end gender-based violence by challenging toxic masculinity, rape culture and the silence that allows abusers to harm others.

As a government, we have the responsibility to not only act on ending gendered violence but also to support survivors.

We have been playing our role by making the first new investments in transition housing in 20 years. Our Women’s Transition Housing Fund will provide 1,500 new units of transition housing, second-stage housing and long-term homes for survivors of violence in communities throughout our province.

Those breaking away from sexual and domestic violence need a safe place to stay in order to begin rebuilding their lives. They require access to services that can help them begin the healing process and move forward from their traumatic experiences. This is why our government has added $18 million over three years to better meet the ongoing demand for programs and services, such as counselling, outreach and crisis support for women and children who experience domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. We also launched a new program this summer that provides job training and counselling supports for survivors of violence and abuse.

Survivors of violence often face multiple barriers to employment, including a lack of reliable housing, child care, and often live with psychological and emotional trauma related to their abuse. Fifteen different job training programs across B.C. are now filling those gaps, so that survivors can build a better life after violence.

Financial dependence is a major contributor to gendered violence. It can leave women isolated and trapped, facing impossible choices, having no place to go but having to continue staying with their abuser, enduring more violence. The reality of the gender pay gap means that most minimum-wage earners are women, and even when women don’t earn minimum wage, they often earn less than men in similar jobs.

To make matters worse, women too often carry the burdens of child care due to safety and a lack of child support. We know financial independence is an important part of fighting gendered violence. Our government is closing this gap by raising the minimum wage, eliminating the liquor-serving wage and investing $1.3 billion in affordable, universal child care.

Inequality leads to exploitation and those further marginalized become targeted, experiencing even more mistreatment. The rates of violence against Indigenous women, queer and trans people, people of colour, and people with disabilities are much higher, further perpetuating those pre-existing stigmas and gender norms.

Addressing inequality of every kind is critical to ending gender-based violence. This year we reinstated the B.C. Human Rights Commission, restoring a major champion of human rights in British Columbia – so that we can move forward in making our province a safer place for everyone to call home.

For the woman walking home from work at dusk, the girl waiting for a bus home, the trans woman on a Sunday errand or the sex worker leaving her apartment, I know how it feels to worry about who may be around the corner. I know how it feels to worry about not being safe.

The sad truth is that too many women, trans, non-binary and two-spirit people in B.C. have experienced physical or sexual violence. And without action, many more will suffer. Inaction is not an option. This behaviour must end.

Today is the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. For generations, people and organizations around the world have been working together to move the dial and have been taking action to make our world safer for everyone.

The next 16 days is a continuation of the dialogue that has already begun – be it the historic waves of feminism, to today’s #MeToo movement. Together we can end gender-based violence and build a brighter future for everyone.

Learn More:

To find out what services are available, call VictimLinkBC at 1 800 563-0808 or visit: 

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/victims-of-crime/victimlinkbc

Anyone who has been a victim of crime in British Columbia, their family members and witnesses can use victim services: 

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/bcs-criminal-justice-system/if-you-are-a-victim-of-a-crime

For more information on 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, visit: 

https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism

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