Surrey hall hears discussions to curb ‘epidemic’ of violence against women


From Surrey to India, vigils and protests have been held to bring attention to violence against women following the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in a bus a month ago in New Delhi, India. In this photo, Indians shout slogans facing a police barricade during a protest against the alleged inaction by the Indian government. Altaf Qadri/AP

More than 150 men and women came out to Surrey’s Bollywood Banquet Hall on Sunday to discuss domestic and sexual violence.

Surrey’s Shakti Society and Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) organized the community café to provide a space for people to talk about sexual violence and the impacts of the New Delhi gang rape and murder from Dec. 16.

“We wanted to focus on sexual violence because of the highly publicized incident that happened in Delhi,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director. “It really galvanized women in India.”

But it also sparked something across the world — including Surrey. In just over a month since the young Delhi woman’s brutal murder, a number of vigils and protests have taken place in temples, community centres and parks.

“There was a lot of raw emotions in the community,” said Sonia Andhi, with Shakti Society. “Everybody I would speak with they would have so much to say about it.”

“It just impacted us in such a way – all of us felt shaken.”

Sunday’s discussion had expert panellists who spoke about the issues of domestic and sexual violence, then opened the floor for participants to pose questions and talk about what needs to be done.

“We go to vigils and we go to protests and whatever and then everyone goes on with their lives,” said Andhi. “So what kind of action are we going to take now that we’re feeling somewhat mobilized?”

The main point that came from the discussion was that “we need to start at home” — start by educating children on the equal role between boys and girls.
“Each one of us needs to do something and not just wait for communities or government to make tougher laws,” said Andhi.

And the issue isn’t unique to India, either.

BWSS responds to over 10,000 cases a year — only 10 per cent of which get reported to the police.

“It’s an epidemic,” said MacDougall.

Both organizations hope to hold another community café to keep the conversation going in the community, with another specifically for men and boys in April.

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