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Truro women continue to educate on non-state torture

Jeanne Sarson, left, and Linda MacDonald were raising awareness about non-state torture when they took part in the women’s march in Truro this month.
Jeanne Sarson, left, and Linda MacDonald were raising awareness about non-state torture when they took part in the women’s march in Truro this month. - Submitted

TRURO, N.S.

Torture is torture, no matter who causes the suffering. That’s the message two Truro women are taking around the world.

An article written by Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, No Longer Invisible: Families that Torture, Traffic and Exploit their Girl Child, has been listed in the top ten reads, as recorded by the Social Science Research Network, for about three weeks.

Most people don’t understand torture could be taking place in their neighbourhood,” said MacDonald. “They often think it only happens with those who are poor and uneducated. We need more education around this so people will start picking up on things, and we need people to understand that it’s still torture if the perpetrators are family.”

It’s classed as state torture when government personnel, such as police, are torturing someone. If a private individual is the perpetrator, it’s non-state torture, but it’s often named as a type of assault.

“They’re saying if someone wore a police hat and tortured someone they would be accountable, but if someone wore a ball cap they wouldn’t be,” said Sarson. “It’s fundamental human rights discrimination. Human rights belong to everyone equally.”

She said the original purpose on torture laws was to protect men at war, and the same attitude was used when the Criminal Code was written.

Sarson, MacDonald and others have pushed to have the Criminal Code amended to include non-state torture, but have been told such a law would be “redundant,” as such acts would be covered as aggravated assaults.

Canadian politicians are still embracing patriarchal legal discrimination that protection from torture is a human right that belongs to warring men, mainly,” said Sarson. “It’s past time to name non-state torture as a specific human rights crime.”

In their recent article, they shared information about women they worked with whose families had rented them out to be raped and tortured since they were small children.

“It’s important to name it as torture and to talk about it,” said Sarson. “What recently happened to children in California is classed as torture because California includes it in the penal code, but what took place in Edmonton won’t be.

“This is really a community matter and it’s shameful to have a country that silences it.”

MacDonald added people often don’t accept the fact that there could be torture taking place in their neighbourhood because they don’t understand why people torture others.

“It’s for the pleasure,” she said. “Sometimes it’s also for profit, but it’s mainly for pleasure. They enjoy it.”

Sarson and MacDonald have been invited by the UN Human Rights Council to speak in Geneva on Feb. 27 and 28. They will speak on human trafficking, human slavery, non-state torture and human rights education.

To read their article go to https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3086626

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