Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 91

Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Political Engagement of Women

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to shed light on the protests that are occurring around the world in the name of democracy.

Over the past few months, newspapers, magazines and other mediums have documented the various rallies and protests that have been taking place in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Sudan. This coverage has shown the world that men and women, both young and old, have come together to fight for what they believe in.

What is often left unnoticed, however, is the unique role women play in these protests and the vulnerable positions they have placed themselves in. During a recent visit to the region, I learned that women played key roles not only as protesters, but also as writers, organizers and funders.

Their engagement, however, has come at a horrendous price. Only last week, while I was travelling in the region, I came across a number of women who had been arrested for their involvement in the protests. Not only were the women detained, they were also tortured and raped. Not only were these women emotionally and physically wounded, they were also robbed of their dignity and the only hope they had of being wed.

One young lady, whose name was Safia, shared a story with me about how she was mistreated by the security forces. Her story is one that haunts me at night.

Safia was a university student who helped organize and document numerous protests. Once word was out about her involvement, security forces immediately arrested her. While detained, Safia was the victim of both physical and emotional abuse.

She told me about how her head scarf fell while she was being beaten, and how security men mocked her for having short hair and questioned her virginity. Safia then proceeded to discuss how she was raped brutally and inhumanely by several men.

I urge honourable senators to help women like Safia obtain asylum in our country. I feel strongly that we have a responsibility to reach out to these women and give them an opportunity to lead a dignified life.

This week, I will return to Africa, where once again I will meet with Safia, who has now moved to another country. Although I am aware we may not have the capacity to rewrite Safia’s past, I sincerely believe we have the ability to ensure she has a brighter future.

I ask honourable senators to help support women like Safia who fight so diligently for democracy.