TRURO, N.S. – In 1993 Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald met a woman who told them her story of being tortured and trafficked by her family, family friends and strangers, setting them on a journey they are still on today.
And as part of that journey, the Truro women went to Geneva in February to present to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on non-State torture
“Our work is being recognized at a higher level,” said MacDonald. “There are people around the world who want to work with us, and the ripple effect is getting larger.”
The women estimate about 5,000 people, from around the world, have related their stories of being tortured.
At the UN event, the woman asked the council to support a recommendation for new, legally-binding human rights laws, with a monitoring body to address violence against women and girls.
Article 5 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, designed as a ban on torture, states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“Article 5 of the Universal Declaration is rarely applied to the non-State torture of women and girls,” Sarson said in her presentation to the UN. “We ask how many more women and girls of all ages must suffer before the Council and States commit to implementing Article 5 equally and legally to all women and girls subjected to non-State torture.”
In March, MacDonald and Sarson were members of a panel at a human rights event in New York, where they shared a presentation called ‘A Canadian experience: Discrimination in law on non-State torture (NST) negates human rights equality, social justice & inclusion of victimized women & girls.’
During this event, the book ‘Gender Perspectives on Torture: Law and Practice,’ in which they have a chapter called, ‘How Non-State Torture is Gendered and Invisibilized: Canada’s Non-Compliance with the Committee Against Torture’s Recommendations’ was launched.
“Our chapter is challenging Canada about the failure to uphold the recommendations of the United Nations Committee Against Torture,” said Sarson. “Despite the 2012 Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture presented to Canada recommending Canada incorporate into domestic law torture perpetrated by non-State actors, this has been rejected.”
MacDonald and Sarson have also written a book about a woman who told them her story of being trafficked, that they hope to have published soon. The woman’s husband took her from Nova Scotia to Ontario, where she was gang raped and then kept captive for four and a half years.