Living in denial cuts across all cultural boundaries

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By Pradip Rodrigues

I spoke with a South Asian professional, a feminist to the core and a strong supporter of empowering women about the high rate of female feticide in the community. I would have expected outrage and a plan to combat this horrendous practice that is responsible for decimating thousands of the fairer sex, but all she could bring herself to say, “We have to be careful how we address this concern,” she didn’t want to be quoted fearing that publicizing the issue would provide ammunition for racists to attack us. Now on the other hand, when other scientific studies show South Asians are predisposed to contracting Type-2 diabetes and heart attacks, there isn’t any such fear about racists using the information to calculate our value to Canada after factoring the burden we place on health care.
One community leader came really close to casting aspersions on the whole study wondering if it was racially motivated. “If this is really the case, then there should be an awareness campaign,” she said. The operational word here was ‘If’.
Another Vice Principle at a High School pointed out that other cultures also preferred male children and that it was wrong to single out South Asians. Abortions is a practice that cuts across cultural boundaries and it cannot be said for sure that most abortions carried out on South Asian women are necessarily because the sex is determined to be female.
This is the same argument used whenever concerns are raised about the domestic violence issue in the South Asian community. It happens in all communities so there is nothing cultural about it.
A South Asian guest columnist at the Globe and Mail wrote a piece with the headline that should say it all:
Sex-selective abortions: Strive for cultural understanding over outrage. So to anyone just scanning this headline, it would mean that trying to understand the reasons sex-selective abortions happens on a grand scale should be seen in the context of deep-rooted cultural reasons and as the Vice-Principal would helpfully add, it happens in many other cultures as well. Lost in all this reasoning, is the actual destruction of female fetuses at 20 waeeks that is causing severe gender imbalance in society. Nothing really to be outraged about.
This is really useful logic to explain and rationalize domestic violence, harassment and dowry death or a whole slew of social ills plaguing our communities.
Cream of the crop exploited!

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Last week my column was about foreign students creating a low-wage work force and coincidentally, the Toronto Star carried a detailed report about one Muhammad Umar Naseem, foreign student from Pakistan with a Masters degree in automotive engineering from the University of Windsor who on finding that his degree couldn’t get him a job in his field, opted for the next best thing- gas attendant. Adding insult to injury was he worked 16-hour days, 100-hour weeks and claims that he worked 11,570 hours overtime for which he has never been paid. Needless to say the gas station franchisee owner is also Pakistani. For the mainstream weaned on news created and reported by mainstream reporters, this would seem like an exception to the rule, but those within immigrant communities and the community news organization know exactly the extent of the problem.
In the past we at Can-India have reported that exploitation of foreign students by unscrupulous small business owners across the country was rampant. In exchange for paperwork and cash payments under the table, these business people are getting away creating an indentured labor class working like slaves. These are willing slaves because they view it as a price to pay for being able to gain permanent residency once they’ve done time. Why then would small businesses be keen on hiring new immigrants and Canadian students at minimum wage when there exists a large and growing foreign student workforce willing to work for amounts far lower than minimum wage? And in many instances not get paid at all?

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