For Young People, Gender-Based Violence Remains an Issue Both Online and Off

  • National Newswatch

Today, young women and girls in Canada face a four in 10 chance of experiencing gender-based violence (GBV) (Statistics Canada, 2018). Even though there has been an increase in public and government awareness and action to address GBV in Canada, and a decrease in the stigma of reporting such incidents, GBV and cyber GBV have been on the rise in recent years due to the pandemic and widespread use of technology which has made online hate more prevalent. We are not seeing the same revolutionary action as we have for gender equality more broadly in the last 10 years. Violence against women festers, causing grave and long-lasting impacts on individuals and communities alike.Gender-based violence is one of the most pressing issues young people face today — demanding action from all to create a safer, more equitable society. As Canada updates its online safety and privacy legislation, addressing GBV should be a priority.The first thing each of us can do to address GBV is to understand the ideas that perpetuate GBV, gender stereotypes and inequalities. Oftentimes, these ideas are hidden in the lyrics of songs we listen to, the shows and movies we watch, and the online content with which we engage. They can sometimes be found in our families and in our schools. Because of this, we can address GBV by considering how we have learned about GBV, and what misconceptions may have arisen out of this.As GBV is perpetuated through societal norms, casual sexism, stereotypes, and a lack of awareness about harmful behaviours, it is essential that individuals consider how they can become more conscientious about their role in upholding harmful ideals. By learning about GBV, identifying it, and recognizing its impact, individuals can raise awareness, and hold themselves and others accountable in stopping the perpetuation of harmful beliefs and actions.Though many of us are aware of the government's ability to act on issues such as gender-based violence, we often forget the ability of citizens to influence government action. One of the easiest, most effective ways to do so is by voting for elected officials who make GBV action a priority. Similarly, we can demand action from our current elected officials by asking them to prioritize action on GBV. Specifically, legislators can work to develop better action steps to address GBV and establish online governance and privacy laws that protect us and safeguard Canadians as we live in our increasingly online world.In the offline world, government action can address GBV through specific action steps, increased funding and further understanding of GBV. Unfortunately, though the federal government has just announced a national action plan to end GBV, it fails to outline specific action steps, focusing on broad goals rather than commitments-a common pitfall with action plans. One step that legislators can take to address online GBV is with Bill C-27. Bill C-27 would update Canada's privacy laws for a digital world, a critical step in protecting the next generation of Canadians from GBV. Both are steps forward, but additional concrete action will always be needed until GBV is eliminated in Canada.Young women and girls, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Indigenous women, racialized women, newcomer women, women with disabilities, and women who live in rural areas are disproportionately affected by GBV and face unique difficulties as victims of GBV. Considering the intersectional nature of GBV can inform the action that we take to understand GBV as it relates to us and our communities, the government action that would best support our communities, and the ways that we can best engage with action to stop GBV.While the federal government has made efforts to address GBV, such as with the new national action plan, increasing funding for GBV, and considering Bill C-27, more can always be done to reduce the threat of violence for women, girls, and gender-diverse people in Canada. Individuals of any age can take action to address GBV by pushing for government action, making efforts to understand GBV and inequalities, confronting any of their own potentially harmful ideals, working to create safer communities — both online and in person — and engaging with action in any way that they find meaningful.On November 20th, National Child Day, consider how you can support young women and girls in Canada with their right to live without the threat of GBV.Jaelin Caverhill, UNICEF Canada Youth Advocate, Sun West Distance Learning Center.Oswaldo Andrés Paz Flores, UNICEF Canada Youth Advocate, École secondaire Jean-Grou.