A B.C. woman who survived being shot in the face by her estranged husband is speaking out against what she calls an epidemic of domestic violence in the Indo-Canadian community.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman described how her husband climbed into her car last October in Port Coquitlam with a gun, shot her and then turned the gun on himself.
Parmajit Singh Ghuman died, but the woman he intended to kill lived.
"He actually shot me twice in my head, one right by my eyes and one right through my brain," she said.
Ghuman, who is now blind, said she felt the need to tell her story because so many other Indo-Canadian women in B.C.'s Lower Mainland have been victims of domestic violence.
Several have not survived.
They include Manjit Panghali, a young mother whose body was found burned in October by a roadside in Delta. Her husband Mukhtiar Panghali was charged with second-degree murder in March.
Also in October, Navreet Kaur Waraich, the mother of a four-month-old boy, was stabbed to death in Surrey. Her husband Jatinder has been charged with second-degree murder.
In February, another young Indo-Canadian mother was stabbed to death in Surrey. Andjust last week, a Sikh man from Vancouver was arrested in India and charged with murdering his estranged wife. Police allegedshe left the marriage, but her husband tracked her down and killed her.
Anti-domestic violence march planned
For months, the Indo-Canadian community has been holding meetings and urging women to speak up about abuse. An anti-domestic violence march is planned for Thursday in Vancouver's Little India neighbourhood.
Ghuman said women must protect themselves. If they are in a violent relationship, they should consider divorce,even ifsome Indo-Canadian women consider such a move shameful.
"Go ahead, sign the papers and everybody separate,"Ghuman said. "Or do you want to die?"
Ghuman's brother, Bo, said there is a cultural barrier preventing women from escaping dangerous situations. He said some Indo-Canadians believe women should be silent and endure.
"If the wife is subservient and does everything her husband tells her to do, everything's good in the world and your marriage will work just fine," he said, citing the belief many hold.
"But that's just not reality."
Ghuman said women need to take charge.
"Our community is basically driven by males and I think it should be half-driven by women," she said.