The brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, India, last December has shocked people around the world. News reports of the attack and its ghastly details are difficult to bear.
Since the incident on December 16, 2012, anti-rape protests in India have grown and spread, sparking a people's movement for change and renewed calls for action on crimes against women in that country.
It is tragic that it takes horrendous incidents and needless death to prompt a resolve for change, and more tragic still, that violence against women occurs around the world without any measure of societal outrage or public response demanding change.
Public outrage in Canada in response to the tragic 1989 Montreal Massacre of 14 young women engineering students at École Polytechnique did put pressure on government and brought about change. Ongoing public calls for action led to the gun registry, now in the process of being dismantled by the Stephen Harper government. And in 1991, Parliament proclaimed December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
We resolve to take action against violence against women to remember the 14 women who were murdered at École Polytechnique. We resolve to take action against violence against women because of the high incidence of aboriginal women in Canada who have disappeared or been murdered.
We resolve to take action when we learn about the young rape victim in India, and when we hear of another recent sexual attack against an aboriginal woman near Thunder Bay.
Women's rights are human rights. Violence against women must stop. We must take action. As union activists, we must educate, mobilize and support progressive change.
A continent away, we are witnessing impressive people power in the on-going anti-rape demonstrations taking place in India, and the government of India is under incredible pressure to respond.
Join me in signing Avaaz.org's international online petition calling on the government of India to "urgently strengthen sexual violence legislation and enforcement, and to launch a massive public education program with hard-hitting and high quality content designed to bring about a profound shift in the shameful attitudes that permit and promote violence against women."
From the USW's 2012 statement on December 6, "Even the smallest actions count. We make a difference when we speak out against bullying, harassment and discrimination. We make a difference when unions raise the issue of violence at the bargaining table, or in our advocacy. We make a difference when we display anti-violence posters in our workplaces."
The latest issue of our USW magazine, USW@Work, includes a pull-out poster you can display in your workplace. You can also download the poster from our website at www.usw.ca/womenofsteel.
The United Steelworkers joins the Canadian Labour Congress's (CLC) call for an inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
We too, can harness people power for positive change. Erasing violence against women is everyone's responsibility.