On Dec 6, 1989, due to their affiliation with a male-dominated profession, 14 female students were murdered at L’Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal. Since then, this day has been declared the Nation Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. 26 years later, it is important not only to reflect on those women who lost their life because of misogyny, but also to consider how women in general suffer from violence on a day-to-day basis in a male-dominated society such as ours.
Let’s take an example from our very own community, The University of British Columbia. Last week, the CBC reported that it took more than a year and a half for our university to take action and expel Dmitry Mordinov, a 28-year old PhD student in the history department, who had been accused of sexually assaulting six women from UBC. Apparently, these women attempted to make complaints to university officials, and were simply dismissed or further victimized by the reporting process.
UBC’s lack of timely response really makes one think about if the rights of six women are not as valued as that of one man. UBC President, Martha Piper’s formal apology includes the acknowledgment that “the process took too long” and that it was “frustrating and time-consuming”; as complainant Glynnis Kirchmeier argues, this is just proof of UBC’s lack of clear procedures for handling sexual assault reports.
The reality is that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Trans* women and First nations women are particularly at risk of sexual violence. We need to wake up and be aware of the violence against women that is undoubtedly a recurring issue in society today. We need to break down the gender inequality present in society that causes this violence. We need to challenge the idea that women deserve less power, and therefore, men can exert power over them. We need to change the attitudes around us.
This Dec 6th, let us remember the 14 female students that were murdered. Let us use them as a reminder of the importance of the prevention of violence against women and think about how we can impact change on campus for a safer, caring community.