The document is titled “The Rights and Responsibilities of Canadian Citizenship.” According to Canada’s National Post,And about time, too, you might say and I have to agree.
“In Canada, men and women are equal under the law,” the document says. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”
In the past I have contended that there was no need for special legislation to make honour killing or forced marriage illegal. After all, murder is murder and forced marriage (not arranged marriage, which is a different kettle of fish) involves kidnap, unlawful imprisonment, grievous bodily harm and rape. Why not simply try the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them?
Sadly, this has not worked in Western countries. Ms Chesler praises Britain for slowly beginning to act on these matters but the truth is that until recently hardly anybody was prosecuted for "honour killings", otherwise known as murder of young women; that nobody has been prosecuted for genital mutilation though it is known to be carried out; that forced marriages occur all the time and women who escape from them are handed over by the police to advisers from "their own community", which results in the unfortunate victim being taken back to the abusive family.
It is almost as if giving well-known crimes culture-specific crimes our society washed its hands of the victims and of any concept of law and order. If that is so, we need to name those crimes quite specifically. If those guilty of "honour killing" are not to be tried for brutal murder then we must make "honour killing" a separate crime. We must make forced marriage a separate crime if we cannot put those who kidnap, imprison, maltreat and rape young women (and sometimes young men) in the dock.
As Ms Chesler points out, an old case was recently reopened in Britain with the mother of the victim, astonishingly, giving evidence against her husband. A growing number of girls and young women as well as the occasional young man, run away from forced marriages even when these happen during a "holiday" in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and successfully claim assistance from officials and dedicated organizations.
For all of that, I approve the Canadian government's attitude. It needs to be stated quite clearly that what applies to some, applies to all and Muslim women (it is usually Muslim though there is the odd case of Sikh and Hindu "honour killing") have all the rights that others possess.
When we have sorted that out we must turn our attention to those girls' and women's education.