Understanding immigrant women’s experiences and responses to intimate partner violence: looking beyond the ‘cultural’ framing

Date & Time: October 30, 2018

Presented by: Vathsala Illesinghe, MD, PhD Policy Studies student, Ryerson University & Fazia Mohammed, Community Programs Manager, Interval House & a community member with lived experiences of intimate partner violence

Presentation: When immigrant women in Canada experience violence in their intimate relationships, they must also bear a cultural burden because it is framed as a form of violence experienced differently by racialized communities. A framing that hides the systemic inequalities and gender power imbalances re-created and reinforced by immigration policies. As a result, rendering invisible the ways in which government policies systematically place some population groups at risk, increase women’s vulnerability to abuse, and fail to provide services and supports to them. Understanding immigrant women’s experiences and responses to intimate partner violence post-migration must be embedded in the structures that constrain their role and participation in migration pathways and processes. This Webinar aims to make that link.

Learning Objectives:

With the participation of a service provider, a person with lived-experience, and moderated by a violence against women scholar, this Webinar aims to:

  • discuss the immigrant women’s experiences of intimate partner violence post-migration and the numerous ways in which they are shaped by immigration policies in Canada,
  • to recognize the ways in which a cultural lens is being used to rationalize and make  structural determinants of such violence invisible, and
  • to collectively find ways to challenge the culturally essentialist framing of immigrant communities’ issues in public and policy venues.

Bio: Vathsala Illesinghe, MD, is a PhD Policy Studies student at the Yeates School of Graduate Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto. She is a 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholar and serves on the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) expert panel. As an experienced violence against women researcher in Sri Lanka and a new immigrant woman in Canada, Vathsala brings a deep understanding of South Asian women’s vulnerability to violence in their home countries, the complexities surrounding their migration experiences, and the gaps in services and responses to addressing violence experienced by immigrant and refugee women in Canada. Her current research is aimed at seeking a better understanding of the complex intersections of gender, violence, and immigration policy in Canada.

Twitter: @vathsalai

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