Wednesday, June 9, 2010

URGENT APPEAL: All Women Should Have Access to Justice!

URGENT APPEAL: All Women Should Have Access to Justice!

Dear AQSAziners,

Thank you for all your hard work on the No Bill 94 Campaign.

We are now facing a related rights issue in Ontario and urgently need your help. This week the Ontario Court of Appeal will be hearing the case R. v. N.S. The case involves a Muslim woman who alleges that she was sexually abused by two family members when she was a child. The two accused men object to the victim’s wearing of the niqab while she gives evidence in Court. The Ontario Court of Appeal is deciding whether she can wear the niqab when she testifies. We are asking No Bill 94 Coalition members to write to your local, provincial and national media outlets to express your support of women’s right to access justice regardless of her religious beliefs and choice of dress. Also please contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament to express your concern about the impact that this case will have on women’s access to justice. You can find their contact information here:

Key Points to Include:

• Condemn any action that re-victimizes women who have been sexually assaulted. The effect of ordering N.S. to remove her niqab in order to testify at a sexual assault trial in which she is the victim is literally to strip off her clothing in open court, while she describes the intimate details of her sexual abuse.

• The denial of her right to wear the niqab to access justice is unacceptable considering that N.S.’s choice of clothing is deeply personal and religious in nature.

• All sexual assault complainants, regardless of how they express their religious beliefs, should have access to justice without having to relive being forcibly uncovered.

• The wider debate over the wearing of the niqab should have no bearing on the right to equal access to justice for sexual assault complainants who hold a religious belief that wearing a niqab is a requirement of their faith.

• Any decision that forces a sexual assault victim to remove the niqab creates a barrier to justice and a real risk that an already marginalized group of women will be shut out of the Canadian justice system and left without its protection.

• The implication of this case for women who wear the niqab is significant. This case provides a vital opportunity for the Court to be vigilant in the protection of victim’s rights and to ensure that discriminatory barriers to the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault are not created or reinforced for women who wear the niqab.

For more information see:

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AQSAZINE is a grassroots zine open to 16-35 year old people who self-identify as Muslim. It is a creative avenue for us to express ourselves, share our experiences, and connect with others. In Arabic, "aqsa" implies the furthermost, as in reaching out to the furthest possible point. AQSAZINE aims to motivate the utmost resistance to violence in all its forms. 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez, who was murdered on December 10th, 2007, also inspires this zine. It is to honour her and other Muslims who experience and resist violence. We strive to work from a feminist, anti-oppressive framework.