The Right to Protect My Rights, Your Rights, Our Women’s Rights in This Unprecedented Time!

group of women lying on green grass field
Author: Earlyn Sharpe

Women’s rights are human rights. Historically the fight for social reform for women’s rights shaped by countless determined women who worked tirelessly to educate and fight for gender equality and human rights for women in Canada and other parts of the world. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic created a situation of general distress. Although the focus has been initially more on physical health during the pandemic, mental health concerns linked to the lockdown have quickly risen.

During humanitarian crises such as wars, natural disasters, or epidemics, violence expands mainly to the most vulnerable groups’ detriment. Consequently, violence against women reportedly increased significantly during the lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown can trigger the onset of anxiety disorders. Allegedly, women who had experienced abuse before the lockdown were at an increased risk of violence during the lockdown.

The decision to lockdown caused a significant change in Canadians’ everyday lives and on the global stage, as reported by various news networks. We once enjoyed being free to travel and move around is now met with movement restrictions. The suspension of work and studies, homeschooling while working at home, prolonged and forced contact between family members, reduced entertainment, boredom, loss of contact with wider social circles, and economic difficulties are extreme hardships that most of us are experiencing during the pandemic and lockdown periods.

These factors might have led to the COVID-19 pandemic turning into a psychosocial crisis and being a primary physical health concern. Violence against women is a public health problem worldwide and a violation of human rights.

As a society, how do we stop this vicious cycle of abuse and betrayal that has plagued women for centuries?

As I look in the rear-view mirror at an intricate part of Canadian history, so many women have gone before us and fight the great fight making remarkable gains that benefit us today. These women championed several critical human rights issues that have become core values globally. Here in Canada, dating back to the early 1900, (Women’s Rights, 2017) defining “persons” under the British North America Act, 1867. These women, known as “The Famous Five, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby, were Canadian human rights defenders fighting for the rights of women here in Canada.

They petitioned the government in 1928 to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether “persons” in the Act included women. The Supreme Court decided that it did not. An appeal to the Privy Council was launched, and in 1929, the Council decided the word “person” in itself was not clear and would be better understood if the British North America Act was given a wider interpretation.” Therefore, if the law was to exclude women, specifically, it should have been clearly stated in the Act. From this point on, women were considered “persons” under the law.”

The struggle moving forward continues as more movements join the fight for women’s rights globally. The Me Too movement was instrumental in pulling back the curtain and revealing the many injustices women are experiencing at work because of their gender. How could this be right and still prevalent in today’s society? We live in a patriarchal society, and women are the underdogs, for lack of a better term. Although, “The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 states that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and family status.” As women, we still have a long way to achieve equality in the workplace and society.

There is a lot of work ahead of us to achieve change that leads to the equality we are fighting for daily. Every one of us has a role to play in accomplishing what is rightfully ours. We need to continually call on our leaders while we do our part to raise awareness of the many injustices women face. Whether we are fighting for equal pay or stopping violence against women, we’re on the same team. We are Stepping It Up!

My biggest takeaway is knowing that women worldwide can stand in unity and fight for our equality, knowing that women’s rights are human rights. What’s yours? Let’s Step It Up!

References:

Heritage, C. (2017, October 25). Government of Canada. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/rights-women.html

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