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International Women’s Day takes to the streets to fight gender inequality

Saturday’s events to bring attention to abuse of live-in caregivers, police brutality

Drawing greater attention to gender inequality, police brutality, and abuse of live-in caregivers are some of the goals of the seventh annual International Women’s Day demonstration, to be held at the Université de Montreal front campus gates Saturday.

The organizers, the Coordination and Action Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, hope to bring women’s issues to the forefront of social discourse and link them to other societal ills like poverty, deportation, and racial profiling.

According to the blog No One Is Illegal Montreal, the event’s theme this year is “women take back democratic space,” and a major point is to remember the police brutality that occurred at last year’s demonstration.

“Gender inequality and violence go hand in hand,” said Mubeenah Mughal, a contributor for the blog and an organizer of the event. “People think that feminism is not relevant, that women have it all, but our rights are being taken away.”

Last year’s event, which focused on international gender issues, ended abruptly when police struck three women – including a 17-year-old – in the chest and face with night sticks and arrested one man. Police said that they were trying to move protesters out of the street and onto the sidewalk.

“The ironic thing,” Mughal said, “was that the one person who did move onto the sidewalk was the one who got arrested.”

Another topic will be plight of female live-in caregivers and domestic workers, who are often subjected to various forms of abuse by their employers.

Speakers at this year’s demonstration will include representatives from a Tamil advocacy group and l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), a radical student federation representing student unions comprising over 40,000 students.

Mughal believed that the demonstration should unite women throughout the world under the common cause of fighting social injustice.

“International Women’s Day is celebrated everywhere,” said Mughal. “The idea is to express solidarity with women around the world.”

Mughal stressed that gender discrimination certainly exists in Canada.

“I’m not trying to compare the condition of women here to their condition in other places,” she said, “but women still struggle here, and what happened last year highlights this.”

Although the violence that marred last year’s demonstration received scant media attention, Mughal suggested it showed some parallels between Canada and other countries where gender discrimination is institutionalized.

“They struggle against gender violence, we struggle against police brutality,” Mughal noted.

The demonstration will represent the steps that have yet to be taken towards gender equality, but it will also represent what has been accomplished so far.

“It will be empowering because of what happened last year. Women are going to come out and support our cause despite intimidation.”