A long-time advocate is calling attention to violence against women in immigrant communities in the Lower Mainland.
Maryam Majedi, a program manager at the Surrey Women’s Centre, explained that immigrants and refugees can be especially at risk of domestic abuse, and often don’t know their rights or where to turn for help.
“Many of them are coming from cultures where the government is corrupt,” she said in a telephone interview. “They come here, they don’t trust police, they don’t trust the courts, and they don’t trust judges, because where they grew up, the police and the courts and the judges were corrupt. And so they don’t have anybody to talk to.”
Further complicating matters, Majedi continued, is that many newcomers to B.C. come from conservative societies where women do not have the rights that they do in Canada. For example, in many countries, nonconsensual sex between a husband and wife is not recognized as rape.
Majedi, who has worked with abused women since 1988, is asking people to use International Women’s Day on Friday (March 8) to help raise awareness about spousal abuse in immigrant communities.
“Surrey is growing really fast,” she said. “We don’t have enough people in terms of outreach to go to temples, mosques, and gatherings at markets, to inform women of their rights.”
According to the Ending Violence Association of B.C., more than half of women in the province have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and more than 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women occur in B.C. every year. EVA B.C.’s website notes that statistics for immigrants are difficult to come by. However, the site notes “social isolation, lack of information about rights and available services, lack of English language skills and lack of services available in their own language, immigration and sponsorship issues, poverty, and lack of support from their cultural community increase the vulnerability of immigrant women”.
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