Comment: ‘Orange the World’: End violence against women and girls

A commentary by a Victoria writer.

I learned a new word this week: Femicide. It means the killing of women and girls.

Its eight letters seem unequal to the task of detailing the appalling toll left by intimate partner violence.

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The Guardian newspaper declared last weekend that a woman is killed by a man every three days in the United Kingdom. Femicide exacts a similar toll in Canada — a figure unchanged in a decade.

Vital Signs, the report card on Greater Victoria’s well-being, tells us that there were 647 reports of intimate partner violence in 2018. The eldest victim was 89.

Just this month we heard of the death of a Langford woman and the arrest of her partner.

Susan Howard of Transition House in Victoria reports an “unbelievable” increase in calls to their crisis line.

She blames much of the increase on COVID-19 and the stress that comes from “sheltering 24 hours a day with an abusive partner.”

Has Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top public health expert, thought about this as she closes the net ever tighter on human interaction?

Divorce lawyers and counselling services are seeing a jump in demand for their services. We may be able to ward off the virus through social isolation, but can we fend off femicide?

This is not just a phenomenon in the developed world. The United Nations is so concerned about the world-wide femicide rate that it has declared the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 as “Sixteen days of activism to end violence against women and girls.”

In Victoria you will see this campaign expressed in the colour orange.

The UN chose this colour for its optimism and suggested we “Orange the World.” That means orange ribbons on lapels, orange ribbons on poster boards and orange lights on the legislature fountain.

Some will wear orange or ­decorate their home with something orange, display an orange banner on their next Zoom call or even enjoy an orange at lunch.

On Dec. 6 we will gather electronically to honour the memory of the 14 students killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal 31 years ago … because they were women.

On Dec. 10 some of us will gather to write letters to seek release for the thousands of people imprisoned in total disdain for their human rights.

Many of us will also choose to donate to the agencies that are working to help the victims of intimate partner violence.

And throughout the 16 days and after, I hope we will be aware of the need to reach out, through phone and email if we can’t do it in person, to those women who might be finding these times especially challenging.

There is help around the clock. The province offers a help line, 1-800-563-0808, and Transition House is at 250 385 6611.

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