Hamilton's South Asian community rallies to end violence against women

Members of the South Asian community and other groups were spurred to action after the rape and murder of a 23-year-old Indian student.
Members of the Women's Peace Brigade, a Hamilton-based group that fights for women's rights in India, at a conference in Odisha, India, Feb. 2012. (Supplied)

On Saturday, Hamilton's South Asian community is joining countless other groups around the world to protest violence against women, after the rape and murder of a 23-year-old Indian student.

Members of the South Asian community, as well as countless other women's rights and peace groups, will be holding a peaceful rally at City Hall beginning at noon. The event will feature speakers including members of McMaster University and the YWCA of Hamilton, who will call for action to end violence against women in India and around the world.

"There will be people from all different groups but our job is the same: to end violence against women," Rama Singh, a McMaster professor and the event organizer, said. He stressed it's not enough just to come together, but to really try to make a change.

"It's one thing to protest and to talk, but then what are you actually going to do about it?" he asked.

The rape and murder of the young Indian woman, yet unidentified, has moved protestors into action in India and across the globe, seeking justice as well as an end to violence against women. On Thursday, New Delhi police filed murder, rape and kidnapping charges against her six accused attackers.

Singh is a member of the Mahila Shanti Sena, also known as the Women's Peace Brigade International — a Hamilton-based group that works to help empower Indian women. For 30 years, the group has travelled to India to provide training camps to help rural Indian women learn how to participate in politics.

Singh said the group, who is supporting the event, is always striving for women's rights and the recent events only spur them, adding there are steps to be made in Hamilton, as violence against women is a global issue. He pointed to the annual peace festival as an example of the community's dedication to ending violence.

"This is an issue that has to be dealt with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis," he said.

Maroussia Ahmed, a McMaster women's studies professor attending the event, also stressed the importance of doing more than just raising awareness.

"This is an issue that affects women from pre-birth to death. It's good to take an opportunity to sensitize the population but at the same time have a call for action, because that is much more important," she said.

As a woman and a member of the Indo-Canadian community, Ahmed said it's natural for her to want to be involved, but her motivation goes deeper than that.

"What initially triggered me was in 1980 when a young colleague of mine was raped in her sleep," Ahmed said.

"It gave me, you could say, a constructive anger. We need to take action."