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Nelson workshop examines violence against women in politics

Discussion was sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women
Participants in the Canadian Federation of University Women’s event Violence Against Women in Politics. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by the Canadian Federation of University Women Nelson and District

The Canadian Federation of University Women Nelson and District hosted a discussion recently entitled Violence Against Women in Politics.

Presenting to the group was Brittny Anderson, MLA for Nelson-Creston, along with participation from club members and guests Sarah Wasilenkoff, constituency assistant for Nelson-Creston; Suzan Hewatt, Mayor of Kaslo; Cheryl Graham, director for RDCK Area E; and Deb Kozak, Nelson’s former mayor and first elected female mayor.

Violence against politicians is a global issue affecting all genders, but it has distinct impacts on women’s participation in politics. In light of recent news that Afghan woman lawmaker Mursal Nabizada was murdered in Kabul while hoping to get to safety in Canada, the discussion began with a moment of silence in her honour.

While the situation for women politicians in Afghanistan is especially dire, a 2016 global study found that 80 per cent of surveyed women members of parliament had experienced psychological, economic, physical and/or sexual violence in their parliament. A 2016 United Nations study found that political parties are the most common perpetrators of this violence. Political parties need to commit to a more respectful, safe, and humane political environment, and address violence against politicians in their party platforms and regulations.

Gender-motivated political violence is a human-rights issue that impacts society as a whole. Attacks against women politicians are often focused on physical appearance and sexuality rather than political views and can include sexual harassment, threats or assaults. While politicians of all genders are targeted, women face a disproportionate amount of online abuse, or gender trolling, which is often includes gender-based and sexual insults and threats.

The CFUW has a lengthy history of advocating for women and education and recently adopted a national policy to speak out and address all forms of violence against women in politics. In the past, local politicians who called out abusive behaviour got told politics “isn’t a job for sissies.”

It is time to end this oppressive kind of thinking and call it out. As rural municipalities work to encourage more diversity within councils and districts, it is even more critical to work toward more respectful discourse for the betterment of our communities. Otherwise, we cannot expect women and minority groups to enter or remain in politics.

CFUW Nelson and District thanks our guests for sharing their experiences and providing more insight into this issue. We learned that if one witnesses abuse, it often helps to call out the behaviour and to offer support to the person being targeted. We encourage everyone to call out abusive behaviour. All of us have the right to workplace and public safety free from discrimination and abuse.

CFUW clubs across Canada are advocating with all levels of government to immediately adopt explicit policies and procedures that prohibit violence against women and all genders in politics. Another important component is educating our children and the public about respectful discourse. Above all, as individuals we can all support political candidates who take action to end violence against women and stand against violence in politics.

The next CFUW general meeting is Saturday, Feb. 11, 1 p.m. at the Nelson Seniors’ Centre. Our guest presenter will discuss activities for combating racism and discrimination in our community. For more information email us: