Speech at the
University Women’s Club on what impact
Women’s lives and
how can we prevent establishment of
I am very confident that gatherings
such as this one will make powerful contributions to the struggle
for women’s freedom by raising the profile of women’s rights.
Such events draw attention to the urgent need for actions relating to ensuring
the total equality of the sexes, to secularism, and towards
the establishment of a society where all people are free and equal regardless
of gender, race, nationality or country of origin.
In my speech I will discuss how
religion, particularly political Islam, pushed back the women’s liberation movement
and how it lowered the norm and the standards of today’s society. Then I
will concentrate how to prevent the establishment of Sharia court in
The establishment of Sharia court in
In the 70's, activists in
women’s liberation movements, not only succeeded in making significant progress
on issues such as Work equality and Labour standards for
women locally, but they also managed to make gains globally. (This
information is available in publications about ILO’s
work for equality and labour standards; under the section of Women and Gender
in the World 1970).
The women’s liberation movements were striving co-operatively
to gain more rights socially, economically and politically, all within a
global prospective. Issues such as “International Labour
Standards for Gender Equality”; “Equality of Opportunity and Treatment
between men and women in health and medical services”; “Maternity Protection at
work” and the "Universality of women’s rights and child protection” were
recognized by the vast majority of people. Such universal awareness raised
the norms and standards of society, especially in the West.
now instead of fighting for universal rights for women and seeking
new avenues for achieving equality, socially,
economically and politically, we still have to fight for the most basic rights, some of
which were actually achieved three centuries ago. Rights, such as the rights
relating to choice of employment, choice of
clothing, travel, divorce, the nature of sexual relationships and rights related
to child custody.
With the rise of political Islam the general outlook of society has shifted
drastically. Political Islam directly imposes
its oppressive rules on women in a brutal manner in the so called Islamic
countries. Through Sharia, women have lost their rights and their dignity.
They are being deprived of their most basic rights. They can not travel or work without
the consent of their husband or their father. They are segregated in society. They are
forced to wear the veil at very early age. If they engage in sexual relationship
outside of marriage they will be stoned to death. Polygamy (
The practice of having more than one wife at the same time) is permitted. Girls
at very young age are forced into arranged marriages. The list of deprivation goes
on and on.
Political Islam needed more power and influence and so it has spread its
reactionary wings in the West. As result, religion gained an upper hand in those
communities considered to be Islamic. Consequently, women coming from Islamic
countries to the West, face the same brutal,
suppressive and abusive situations that they left behind.
Unfortunately multiculturalism provides a justification for this
Only in this context, can the attempt to implement a
The sad reality is that the Ontario Arbitration Act 1991 legitimizes
the endorsement of Sharia law.
We must recognize this move as reactionary and as anti women. We
must rise up against it and once more safeguard the complete separation
of religion from the state and from the judicial system. We must demand that
religion be declared the private affair of individuals. It is our duty to defend
secularism; only then we can smooth the path for women’s liberation.
Women’s equality and freedom has direct connections with the state in two
areas. One is in regards to legislation and the other relates to support
The question we face is: "What does our society do
to guarantee legislation and action that defend the rights of full equality
for all women?"
We must accept one set of progressive laws and regulations for all, irrespective of sex, race,
We should remind people that the validation of Sharia court in
We should not allow any cultural restrictions to interfere with our
justice system. We should acknowledge the fact that religion and traditional cultures
are serious barriers to women’s liberation.
We should mobilize people under the slogan of separation of religion from state
and justice system.
We should acknowledge all religions
as private matters. A person’s religion should not enter the picture in
defining their social and political identity nor should it be a factor in their
interactions with the state.
We should develop self-awareness and have a clear idea of our demands and
Finally to protect women’s hard earned achievements; governments must educate
all residents about their rights and provided them with appropriate and sufficient
legal support services to ensure those rights.
I’d like to end my speech by making an appeal to you. As an activist for
women’s equality and as a founder of the International Campaign against
Sharia Court in Canada, I appeal to you to support this campaign for the total
separation of religion from the justice system and for the removal of
family law from the Ontario Arbitration Act 1991, in any way possible: financially,
morally and by keeping people alert to the dangers our society faces.