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mercredi 10 janvier 2007
Democracy and Religious Obligations : an Impasse ?
DANS LA MEME RUBRIQUE
Burkini Is a Feminist Issue Too
The notion that it’s ok for disabled men to pay for sex is rooted in misogyny and ableism
Egyptian doctor living in Zurich produces educational videos about health and sexuality for the Arab world
Amnesty International and Prostitution : Not in Our Name !
Open letter to rabble.ca - Support Meghan Murphy suffered a misogynist campaign by the sex industry lobby
"Insectual - The Secret of the Black Butterfly", by Barbara Sala
Canada’s New Sex Trade Law
Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism
“Harm reduction” is not enough to appropriately analyze prostitution
True Progressives Encourage Women’s Equality, Not Their Prostitution
Sexual mutilations outside Africa : new report and new denial except the Iraqi case
FGM slowing down ? The UN asserts it, the Indonesian case contradicts it
Prostitution, STRASS and the senator - When opacity becomes relevant
Is equating prostitution and rape ‘intolerable violence’ ? Really ?
Obama, Madonna and us
After Ontario Courts rule on Bedford : a rant
Comparing Sex Buyers and Non-Sex Buyers July 2011 (Boston)
Sex resistance in heterosexual arrangements
Abolitionists of the prostitution system : who we are, what we want !
Women Living Under Muslim Laws Statement on Libya
Prostitution is a Threat to Humanity
Prostitution - Call for Australia’s prostitution laws to be tightened
Violence - An Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers
Nothing that is sexual can be considered criminal : hidden sexual violence in the DSK case
The Truth about Global Sex Slavery – A Book by Lydia Cacho
Why reproductive rights and prostitution are not the same thing : A response to one decriminalization argument
Prostitution - The abolitionist project within the conference Women’s Worlds 2011
Montreal - The Turcotte jury got it wrong
Reasons I Will Not Go On the Slutwalk
International Sex Industries and their Accomplices Hamper the Autonomy of All Women
Ten Critical Reasons for getting rid of Harper’s Conservatives
Real solidarity with prostituted women is in the fight for abolition of prostitution
Decriminalize prostituted persons and criminalize those who exploit them (‘johns’ and pimps)
Polygamy in Canada Should Remain Illegal
My fears of the push for indoors prostitution
We cannot be satisfied with the simple harm-reduction model
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is Worried About Himel’s Judgement on Prostitution
Ontario Court Decision Abandons Aboriginal Women and Women of Colour to Pimps
Response to the VPD review in the cases of the Pickton Murders
Speech - The effects of globalization of political Islam on Women’s Rights, the question with polygamy, the Niqab and Honour Killing
Quebec Forges Enlightened Trail on Burkas
Breast Cancer a Disease, No a Marketing Opportunity
The International Campaign To Closedown Iranian Embassies
Violation of rights in Iran, a window from my experience to a broader picture
"Sex worker" ? Never met one !
The One Million Signatures Campaign has been awarded the prestigious Global Women’s Rights Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation
Prostitution - Feminist Perspectives, a book
Prostitution : Violating the Human Rights of Poor Women
More than 1 000 american historians call for equity in the stimulus package in open letter to Obama
Order of Canada Awarded to Dr. Morgentaler - Acts of intimidation should not rule Canada
Femaid report on Afghanistan, May 2008
Time for Quebecers to be more open : Bouchard-Taylor report
Canadian Bar Association supports strengthening equality in the Quebec Charter
Zero Tolerance for Johns : How the Government of Sweden Would Respond to Spitzer
Politicians are responsible for toxic, misogynist environment facing girls
Spitzer - The Myth of the Victimless Crime
Goodbye To All That (#2)
The freedom to never prostitute oneself
NO legalized brothels for the Olympics 2010 - Aboriginal women’s Action Network statement on prostitution
CLES says NO to the violence of prostitution
Does Porn Make the Man ?
A Trip Into the Absurd
Mothers File International Complaint Against United States
Prostitutes are victims, not criminals
Anthology of Québec Women’s Plays in English Translation, Volume I (1966-1986)
The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (CLES) intervene during the upcoming provincial election
Prostitution - Three Women and a Debate
Men Favour the Apolitical Discourse on Prostitution
The Whole Truth Must be Told : Sylviane’s testimony on her experience of prostitution
What is liberation ? Feminism past, present and future
Books by Andrea Dworkin
Globalization, Militarism and Sex Trafficking
Muslim Groups Denounce the Cultural Relativism of a Certain Left
Canadian Muslim leader alleges her veil views sparked vandalism
Prostitution : CATW’S Post-World Cup Statement
NOW to denounce so-called parental alienation
Prostitution : for an Abolitionist Bill
The dimensions of trafficking for purposes of prostitution
"Charm is a Guise ; Batterers Belong in Jail, Expert Says"
Interview with Catherine MacKinnon : Are Women Human ?
Danish cartoons - Doing away with the Enlightenment ?
It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers
Green Light for Pimps and Johns
Buying Sex is not a Sport
Prostitution is Violence Against Women
The Ideal Site for the Crime
Tell me, what does "gender" really mean ?
Gunilla Ekberg : « The best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them to get out of prostitution »
Interview with Catharine A. MacKinnon : « They haven’t crushed me yet. »
Decriminalizing prostitution, a magnet for pimps and johns
Declaration on Religious Arbitration in Family Law
Prostitution : Towards a Canadian policy of abolition
Prostitution inseparable of violence against women
The need for a public debate on prostitution and its social consequences
Prostitution of First Nations Women in Canada
270 000 $ granted to Stella for a four days event on sex work
IN MEMORIAM : Andrea Dworkin or The passion for justice
Decriminalizing prostitution will not improve the security of prostituted women
Dworkin - Taking Back the Night
Backlash and Whiplash : A Critique of Statistics Canada’s 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization
Helping the prostituted women or promoting prostitution ?
The Need for a Public Debate on Prostitution and its Social Consequences
The legalization of prostitution and its impact on trafficking in women and children
Prostitution Links, Women’s Justice Center
"If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits"
Sweden Treating Prostitution as Violence Against Women
Forced marriage as crime
Why Women Must Get out of Men’s Laps
International Campaing Against Shari’a Court in Canada
Decriminalize prostituted women, not prostitution
Canada Contributes to the Sexual Trafficking of Women for Purposes of Prostitution
Fathers’ Rights Groups in Australia and their Engagement with Issues in Family Law
Women Rage Against ’Rape’ in Northeast India
Sexual domination in uniform : an american value
Tribunals Will Marginalize Canadian Muslin Women and Increase Privatization of Family Law
The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war
Queer theory and violence against women
The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment
Globalization and the Sex Trade : Trafficking and the Commodification of Women and Children
Will Paternal Paranoia Triumph ?
Ode to Survivors
Court confirms any woman’s human right to organize with peers
Program produces motherless kids
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part One)
Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN International Labour Organization Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part Two)
Elisabeth Badinter distorts feminism the better to fight it
Prostitution : Rights of Women or Right to Women ?
The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax : Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes
Hormone Replacement Therapy, the "Magic Bullet" Ricochets
For the sake of the children : the law, domestic violence and children contact in England
Friendships between women good for health
Children of divorce need our protection
Divorce Bill’s flaws inadvertently aid abusers
Problem isn’t little boys, it’s little minds
A report from Status of Women Canada about the discursive denial of gender inequalities
Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution
Poem for Peace
Peace Rally Speech of a 12 year old American Girl
Good clone, bad clone ?
Canadian Women’s Health Network
So hard to say goodbye
These days, a lot of talks have been going on about religion and especially about the difficulty of coexistence between religious obligations and the principles of democracy and equal rights to which our community identifies. We must consider that the number of accommodations we ask for are directly related with the status of women and I, as a woman and as a citizen shall add my ten cents’ worth into the chaotic debate of what religious obligations should be in a secular and democratic community and what accommodations should be made.
Is the Quebec community secular ?
We know what influence the Catholic Church has had on the community of Quebec. But there is no doubt that ever since the Révolution tranquille, the state has taken many steps that demonstrate the will of our community to free itself from religious rules.
Let us not forget that democracy was born from the need that we humans have for being in charge of our collective destiny and therefore our need to free ourselves from fixed religious rules. As a matter of fact, democracy is characterized especially by the possibilities it gives its citizens to not only choose their representatives but also to choose the rules for community life and adopt a system of laws that can always be questioned as opposed to a system of religious laws which were mostly written more than a thousand years ago. Democracy has transformed values which were rules in religion - interdiction to murder, to steal and so on - and it has rejected what seemed incompatible with values in a democracy, such as equality between the sexes. In the light of these characteristics, there is no doubt that Quebec is a democracy in spite of its flaws.
Moreover, numerous events speak for the choice which Quebec made for secularism, for instance the constitutional amendment the government of Quebec claimed and obtained during Ms. Pauline Marois’ mandate in order to secularise the school boards. Think about it : Because the majority considered that the public insisted on secularising the school boards, the state of Quebec chose to put a stop to rights that were constitutionally granted to Catholics and Protestants. Indeed, to a society that had turned pluralist (a society made of non-believers and believers of various confessions), it was important to respect each individual’s freedom of conscience, important to prevent the conflicts of values between confessions and the confrontations that could have resulted from them, in other words, in order to establish a context that would allow peace in the community, it seemed important to secularise the civil institutions and limit the public display of religious beliefs.
When, in the midst of the present debate on accommodations, we are aware of the implications a constitutional change would have, we cannot ignore the symbolic outreach of Quebec’s decision when its demands for an ending to Article 93 in the Canadian Constitution.
Even if secularism is not named as such in any given text, there are proofs in, to say the least in our Civil Code and Criminal Code which are tools invented by the actors of democracy, that the community of Quebec from now on has turned secularist. So have its public institutions. Another element is worth considering : all paid holidays have long been secular and are granted to all, whatever their faith. They are, of course, born of our Christian history - which we must not be ashamed of - but they have stopped being religious holidays. There being a cross on top of Mount Royal is not a proof that Quebec is a religious community either : no one has to kneel before it. This cross, like all churches and wayside crosses are part of our patrimony, of our history. France, one of the best known countries for being secular, has not destroyed its cathedrals ! In order to prove our secularism, should we act like the Talibans who have destroyed their magnificent giant Buddhas on the pretence that the Buddhist imagery is anti-Islamic ? We must expect more from a country whose motto is "I remember"...
In my view, a secular community is a community whose rules and regulations are not founded on a religion but on laws that are decided upon by a democratic forum - such as a parliament, a national assembly and so on...-, whose members have been elected and whose public institutions do not subscribe to any faith. This is the choice Quebec has made.
To accommodate is nice when it allows preventing discrimination : think for instance of the blind being allowed to take their dogs to restaurants, of a company desk being adapted for a handicapped employee in a wheel chair. Also, accommodation is not a must if it means excessive constraint. These accommodations have general approval.
It is clear that the accommodations that trigger more negative reactions are those granted on the subject of religious duties. In my view, this is principally caused by three different reasons : They question the secularity of public institutions and deny the principle of equality between sexes. Also, whereas the demands made by a handicapped person aim at conciliating the effects of an uncontrolled condition (the handicap), the accommodations that are demanded for religious reasons and, as a result, would not be touched by the general rules that have been decided on in the name of the peoples’ welfare, are made in the name of obligations that have voluntarily been self imposed. Certainly, the growing embarrassment of many of those citizens who are faced with compromising pleas for religious reasons can be explained by these three factors.
Moreover, the notion of excessive constraint in an accommodation made in the case of a handicap cannot be applied in the case of religious obligations. As a matter of fact, the accommodations that are demanded do not cost a lot of money - think of the kirpan at school, or the veil, or of the door-to-door canvassing of the Witnesses of Jehovah members ; still, the consequences of these accommodations are much more important than the consequences of an accommodation made in the case of a handicap, because they alter the choices made by an entire community. So, we can ask this of ourselves : are these accommodations really necessary in order to respect freedom of faith ?
Equality of the sexes vs religious duties
Through time and jurisprudence, the concept of freedom of faith has taken a dimension which could not have been foreseen by the legislator in 1975, when the Quebec Charter was adopted, nor the Canadian Charter. It was before the spectacular rise of religious fundamentalism. Up to the 80’, the West was engaged in a general pro-secularism move and no one (perhaps with the exception of Malraux) could have imagined that religious wars would make a forceful come back.
I confess my bewilderment at the Supreme Court’s concept of freedom of faith :
With this interpretation of freedom of religion, applicants for an accommodation in the name of religious duties have an advantage because they do not need to prove anything but their good faith. But, why is it that in a democracy, an individual claim based on so called divine - and hence, unverifiable - obligations, weighs heavier than the choice made by a community after several years of discussions and legal, let alone constitutional, amendments ?
How is it that, under the pretence of freedom of religion, a secular community is being pushed into protecting, both in public and in private, customs and duties which, being called religious, automatically acquire a sacred and therefore irrefutable character ?
In the light of many verdicts - some of which have been highly covered by the media - that were pronounced in favour of accommodations made in the name of religious obligations, numerous public institutions think that to accept demands that will question the principles of equality between sexes is to show broadness of mind and respect for the Charters : i.e. the icing over of the window panes of a gymnasium in order to hide from a Hassidic Jew the figures of women he must not see, the establishment of a timetable which, based on an apartheid formula, will separate men and women in a swimming pool, the compelling of police women to abide by the sexist convictions of fundamentalist religious citizens, etc... We have not yet forgotten the amount of vigour that was put into fighting the coming of Charia based courts in Ontario... Sexism is evidently not as bad a sin as racism !
Coming out of the impasse
That many citizens, men and women, feel gagged by the decisions of the Supreme Court is no surprise. As a matter of fact, up to now, we have had the impression that the courts have benefited the claims that favoured a public religious come back, thus condemning our community to the past eras of religiosity which Quebec has only just laboriously left behind.
Nonetheless, many of us question ourselves as our public areas are constantly gnawed by claims of religious nature. But whose voices do we hear ? On the one hand, we hear the voices of people who specialize in intercultural relations or in religious sciences, the voices of magistrates, of pressure group members who speak in favour of compromising and, on the other hand, we hear the voices of intolerant citizens who impute solely to the immigrants the trouble we have in controlling religious fundamentalism. Not much space is left for the feminist and democratic citizens’ voice. It is now time they were heard.
In order to get out of the impasse, a debate must be forced on about shedding light on certain points, some of which I believe have their core in the following questions :
• Regardless of all the existing evidence, do we need to be officially proclaimed as being secular for Quebec to be at last recognised as such ?
• Must our public institutions be neutral - where all faiths are brought to live together and accommodate one another - or must they, on the contrary, be secular ? - where the only duties whose observance is protected are duties that have been democratically accepted and which are, consequently, democratically revocable ?
In a democracy, the courts serve the people. If legal or constitutional amendments are required in order to better manage and restrain the concept of religious obligations as well as their places in the public space, then the citizens can and must demand them so that the community in which they live reflects the values of the majority.
Translated for Sisyphe by Sylvie Miller.
On Sisyphe, January 10, 2007.