Despite the countless advances in the fight to counter violence against women and girls, including international legal conventions, declarations, policies and grassroots mobilization, violence against women remains a continuous societal and systematic problem. Indeed, much is still to be done in order to prevent, counter and abolish the phenomenon.
The violence that women and girls face within families has a variety of names, including: domestic violence, wife assault, wife beating and intimate partner violence, just to name a few. However, the language of domestic violence does not accurately capture or describe the lived realities of familial violence in Canada. In particular, it does not account for the fact that family violence is a gendered phenomenon, with the vast majority of violence in families being committed by men against their wives and daughters. Thus, we chose to employ the terminology of violence against women (1) to best describe this pattern of familial violence.
As a women’s organization that is dedicated to the equality, equity and empowerment of Canadian Muslim women and our non-Muslim sister allies, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women upholds the positions and normative frameworks of the: United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Consequently, we denounce violence against women and girls in all its forms, on the basis that it violates her fundamental human rights including her right to life, liberty and the security of the person. Moreover, we believe that such violence deprives her family and community of the ability to grow and be enriched by her active participation and contributions.
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) recognizes that violence against men and boys is a social issue that is equally distressing and troublesome. However, the persistent and disproportionate level of violence that is inflicted by men against women and girls is of great concern, and commands much needed attention and action. According to Statistics Canada, half of the women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and are now less likely to report this violence to the police (1)
In 2011, victims of family violence accounted for 25% of all victims of violent crime in Canada. Women had more than twice the risk of becoming a victim of such violence with girls and women accounting for 7 out of 10 victims in such cases. Moreover, research from Justice Canada found that in 2009 almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence were reported to the police, with women representing 80% of victims in these instances (3).
Contrary to mainstream misleading representations of Canadian Muslim families, current research indicates that Muslim women do not face any greater risk of violence than those women who are similarly socially located. However, in light of their distinctive religious beliefs and cultural traditions, Muslim women and girls face unique causal factors for familial violence, and distinctive barriers when it comes to leaving abusive circumstances (4). As an organization of believing Muslim women, we are committed to a gender equal understanding of Islam and its traditions and texts. We maintain that any form of violence committed against women in the name of Islam cannot be tolerated, and violates the tenets of our faith.
Verse 4:34 (Surah An-Nisa) from the Qur’an has often been misused to justify the practice of beating one’s wife, establishing that husbands are able to beat [daraba] their wives (lightly) if they have shown their husband disloyalty or ill-conduct (5). CCMW does not subscribe to these gendered interpretations of religious texts, which we believe counter the emancipatory spirit of the Islamic tradition and the Prophet’s teachings.
The Qur’an itself does not establish a hierarchy between men and women, and in fact establishes that men and women are created from a single nafs or soul, thereby countering the very premise of patriarchy. We share the position of a growing school of Islamic scholarship which challenges this particular interpretation and reading of the text, in accordance with the life of the Prophet who himself never struck his wife (6)
Therefore, CCMW maintains that violence against women and girls is an un-Islamic practice, which is to be denounced and actively resisted by religious leaders, Canadian Muslim communities and the wider Canadian population. It is our hope that any collective opposition to violence against women reflects a spirit of collaboration and dialogue that will lead to action, with the overarching goal of eradicating violence against all women.
For more information about the project and our resources including our publication and fact sheets visit: www.ccmw.com
Originally written on August 19, 2014. Source
1. Canadian Women’s Foundation, The Facts About Violence Against Women in Canada. The Canadian Women’s Foundation, 13 Jun 2014 < http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about- violence>.
2. Maire Sinha, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile- ʹͲͳͲ. ʹʹ May. ʹͲͳʹ, Statistics Canada, 13 Feb. 2013 < http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002- x/2012001/article/11643-eng.htm> 5 – 6
3. Pam Cross, Violence Against Women: Health and Justice for Canadian Muslim Women. (Toronto, The Canadian Council of Muslim Women: 2013) 4-9.
4. Cross, 2013. 5-17.
5. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (New York, Tehrike Tarsile Qur’an: ͳͻͺͺ). ͳͻͲ.
6. Cross, 2014. xiv-xv.