I received a petition from Change.org today, as I often do, about Women’s rights.
Here is the content of the email:
Girls in a Toronto public school are sent to the back of the room — just because they’re menstruating.
Valley Park Middle School in Toronto allows Muslim students to use the cafeteria for Friday prayer: Seventh and eighth grade girls pray behind the boys, separated by tables, while girls who have their period must sit on their own in the back of the room, not allowed to join in the prayer.
The Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and newspapers both left and right have spoken out: Segregating 12-year-old girls who are menstruating sends an unhealthy and sexist message that can scar these children.
But the school still hasn’t budged. That’s why Tim Das, a father of two kids in Toronto,started a petition on Change.org calling for the Toronto District School Board to enforce its general equity policy and stop segregating menstruating girls in schools. Will you add your name now?
Tim said he started the petition because school should be a safe place for children, not one in which girls are shamed and ostracized for a natural function of their bodies — a development they’re just getting used to. “As a taxpayer, Toronto resident, and first-generation Canadian — and most of all, as the father of a sweet, spirited six year old girl in the Toronto Public School system — I was aghast," said Tim. ”I knew I had to do something.”
Toronto’s School Board is required to promote “gender equity ideals” in “all aspects” of the city’s schools. One board member has already said he thinks the board should enforce that policy. Widespread public outcry can push the rest of the board to agree to stop segregating girls who have their period.
Sign the petition to tell the Toronto District School Board to stop treating girls like second-class citizens — and worse — in publicly funded schools.
Thank you for taking action.
- Shelby and the Change.org team
I don’t … know how I feel about this. I seem to have a lot of “on the one hand” opinions.
On the one hand - no, I do not think that girls should be ostracized because something is occurring in their body which they cannot control and they certainly should not be shamed for.
On the other hand - I don’t entirely feel comfortable with the idea of a public school board saying: yes, you can come in and practice your religion within these walls every Friday at lunch, oh but, we are going to dictate some of your cultural practices and standards.
To be honest, I don’t particularly like the idea of a public school permitting religion on their grounds at all (particularly if the school board and trustees start to step in and dictate based on their own views, context and policies).
But on the other hand, I can appreciate the inclusiveness and multiculturalism that the school has attempted to create given that three to four hundred of its twelve hundred students are taking part. The question of religious rights is valid, particularly since our school weeks and years are set up around the Christian religion. This would be, as I understand it, akin to allowing Christians to have a small mass on Sundays if they were also required to be in school, or Jewish students to have a place to pray during the Sabbath.
On the other other hand, I feel as if this is not the place to raise the complaint and the issue. Is the Imam who is running the service part of the same service that the boys and girls would have attended if they had needed to go off schoolgrounds to attend? If not, or if the parents of the participating children would not normally worship in a place with segregation like this, then perhaps a change in officient is in order? Or a different sort of prayer group? There seems to be other options other than handing down an edict from above.
I suppose the real reason I do not feel comfortable with this is I do not have enough knowledge to know if by signing the petition, would I be an ally in this or not? I do not know the opinion of the students and parents who are affected by this. There are a variety of opinions from Muslim groups who obviously feel that this is more strict than they agree with, however, nothing specific from those who choose to attend every Friday or their parents. And while it might seem like the simple solution is: Just get everyone to stop the segregation! I have no way of knowing the context or the affects this would have on the people who are actually impacted by this. It seems to be part of a greater picture, and really, the only outcome I can currently see if the Toronto school forbids the segregation (at least, if the parents and children are not requesting the change as well - at which point, this is a WHOLE other story) is making a lot of people who are not affected by this feel better about themselves and pictures they see on the internet.