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The 'Barbaric Practices' Bill Calls a Spade a Spade

12/12/2014 12:47 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
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Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander tabled a bill called The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices act in Parliament last month.

Government claims that the act would prevent Canadians from barbaric cultural practices such as polygamy and forced marriages. However, some criticize the name of the bill, calling it a pretty loaded one.

Liberal Senator Art Eggleton says that "by using barbaric in the title, the government is calling cultural communities barbarians."

"It's the violence against women that is barbaric, not entire communities," said Minister Alexander while defending title of the bill.

Minister Alexander is right. Violence against women is an absolutely barbaric act. It must be addressed strongly. Forced marriages, polygamy and honour killings happen every day around the globe under the guise of cultural practices. Should those cultural practices not be condemned?

Calling a spade a spade should not be a political issue in a country like Canada where human rights guarantee equal rights to women.

Polygamy is being practiced in Canada by some of the Muslim community members and some Mormon community members. Cases of Polygamy in Mormon community are already under fire and scrutiny. Polygamy cases and issues in Canadian Muslim communities are widespread and mostly under the rug.

They must be addressed strictly without any ifs, ands or buts, and beyond political correctness. Instead of being defensive or apologetic, Muslim leaders in Canada need to come forward and should denounce polygamy by exercising Ijtihad, Islam's own tradition of independent thinking.

Forced marriages and honour killing cases have surfaced mostly in Muslim communities, but in some Sikh communities too.

A survey was conducted by South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario in 2013 that uncovers 69 forced marriage cases in 2010, 64 cases in 2011 and 77 cases in 2012.

The agency's related website defines forced marriages as follows:

"A forced marriage is a form of violence and an abuse of human rights. It is a practice in which a marriage takes place without the free consent of the individuals getting married. Forced marriage can happen to anyone; of any gender, of any age."

Minister Alexander's tabled bill proposes the following:

• Creating a new inadmissibility under IRPA that would render permanent residents and temporary residents inadmissible if they practise polygamy in Canada;

• Strengthening Canadian marriage laws by amending the Civil Marriage Act to codify the existing legal requirements, at the national level, for "free and enlightened consent" and establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16;

• Helping to protect potential victims of early or forced marriages by creating a new specific court-ordered peace bond to be used where there are grounds to fear that a person would commit a forced or early marriage offence, including the mandatory surrendering of a passport to prevent a child from being taken out of the country to facilitate a forced marriage;

• Criminalizing certain conduct related to early and forced marriage ceremonies in the Criminal Code, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriage;

• Limiting the defence of provocation so that it would not apply in so-called "honour" killings and many spousal homicides; and

• Including consequential amendments to the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act to include the aforementioned peace bond

Instead of criticizing the bill, let's echo the minister's voice!

"What is a barbaric practice? It is a practice that is unacceptable; it is a practice that involves violence that is in many respects indiscriminate, gratuitously meted out, behind closed doors, where women and girls are defenceless, whereby whole families conspire to ensure underage women lie about their age, take part in a forced marriage," he said.

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