People gather in Park Ex to protest most recent femicide
“Not one more” was one of the many slogans chanted in front of Parc Metro station on Friday. Demonstrators had gathered to commemorate femicide victim Rajinder Prabhneed Kaur.
A Park Ex resident, Kaur was the 14th woman to die at the hands of her partner this year in Québec. People were protesting against what they called an “epidemic of violence,” and asked that the government do more to address the issue.
Kaur was murdered by her husband Navdeep Ghotra on Jul. 19 in the presence of one of their children. The suspect then video called his family in India, who alerted Montreal police to what had happened. Ghotra, the prime suspect in the murder, was found dead last week in the Rivière des Prairies in what appeared to be a suicide.
The protest and commemoration were organized by the South Asian Women’s Community Center, an organization with the specific mission of helping women of South Asian origin find better autonomy and better act against discrimination.
The other epidemic
“We are here to commemorate those we have lost throughout our lives, throughout the years. and also for the women that should be here with us but that are suffering in silence,” said lifelong Park Extension resident and activist Samia Hussain who spoke at the event.
Demonstrators were gathered to raise awareness on a growing problem that they say knows no boundaries and affects all people regardless of cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic background. Protestors spoke in front of Parc Metro station before walking down Jean-Talon and ending the march at the apartment on Birnam where the murder happened.
Protestors also underlined several other incidents which have previously occurred in the area, including the murder by immolation of a woman in 2012 and another who was forced into sexual slavery.
“The women who are isolated in their houses and who suffer hits to their body by a person they had confidence in,” deplored Hussain, asking that the government do more to properly address this issue.
Falling through the cracks
Many present that day said they were tired of the current solutions offered by the provincial government. “14 women in 2021 have already died at the hands of their partner, 14 women too many,” decried Svetlana Chernienko, a mental health and domestic abuse advocate and survivor.
“This is a real issue, it’s a real problem,” said Chernienko, adding that the community needed to “come together for our government to understand that we need change, that this can no longer continue to happen.”
Chernienko advocated that although social programs and funding offered by the government were appreciated, more needed to be done to change legislation around domestic abusers to keep women safe. “Throwing in a few million dollars and creating a program and service is not enough,” she explained.
Kaur had already reported Ghotra to police in May saying he had uttered death threats and was dangerous. He was arrested and had a court date set for October, but was released and went back to live with his wife and children.
For Chernienko and many other advocates, this is a sad example of how women are falling through the cracks. “We need to start there when they’re taken into custody,” said Chernienko of domestic abusers, adding that in her situation, her abuser had been released only 24 to 48 hours after being arrested.
“I believe that they should be held for at least 90 days in a prison system and get a psychological evaluation by professionals in order to see whether they’ll go further,” she explained.
This would help abuse victims feel safer and give them a better chance to leave the abusive relationship. “That helps us be able to maneuver maybe move out or leave, we have three months to do so,” continued Chernienko.
She would like to see legislative change be brought forward at the provincial level to help bonify the social programs and funding the government is already offering. “It’s like you build a house with no foundation, the house is going to sink,” said Chernienko of the current system.
This is something Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros agrees with. “They have to change the justice system to be able to take further action, a more strict action to protect the women and the children,” said Deros at the rally.
“The tragedy is one more woman, a mother of two, has been taken away,” said Deros somberly.
“We need to let people know that this is totally unacceptable and what the consequences are,” added Deros. She also said that it was important to better educate people on what domestic abuse is and how to seek help.
Education of boys
For Minoo Gundevia, who was present at the rally, teaching young boys is especially important in stopping this. “Education has to start in the family, where parents have to teach children, that men and women, boys and girls, they are all equal,” said Gundevia.
“There is no room for violence, even verbal violence,” added Gundevia, saying that he hoped the government would take a strong stand on this issue and enact lasting change.
“The government should send a very strong message, saying that this is not be tolerated, that there will be institutions created so that this is stopped,” he concluded.