A documentary called Honor Diaries, which highlights the plight of oppressed women in Muslim-majority societies, will have its Toronto premier this week.
Gender-equality activist, author and public speaker Raheel Raza, one of the nine women featured in the film, said she hopes the documentary will raise awareness about issues including female genital mutilation, honour-based violence and forced marriages.
“I am a woman living in a country where I have freedom and equality, and I came here for that, but in my country of birth, every woman doesn’t have freedom and equality, so I want to be the voice for those who are silenced,” said Raza, who is originally from Pakistan.
She said that while she is encouraged by the fact that there is more awareness of the subject today, the problem persists and there is still a “barrier of silence” that needs to be broken.
“When we look at the statistics of the actual violence taking place against women, it’s on the rise, unfortunately. I think that in the West it is on the rise because of political correctness. People don't want to speak about it. These are toxic issues that are not easy to talk about. I understand that. But our mandate is to expose, educate and eradicate,” Raza said.
“Let me assure you that these tribal practices have crept their way into western countries. So we need to be conscious. When we speak about it happening in other countries, we are creating awareness, and unless we expose these issues, it can happen in our own societies, right here in Canada.”
Although the film is centred on the nine female activists, there is one man, Raza’s husband, who is featured in the documentary.
“I told the producers about the kind of work we’re doing, the activism, and we need the need the support of men, and I, personally, in my life, could never have done the work that I do without the support of my husband and my sons,” she said.
“I think it’s important for audiences to see that there are Muslim men who are supportive of the cause. That is sort of the lighter side of the film, because it’s a very heavy film.”
The film focuses on women in Muslim-majority societies, but women of all backgrounds can relate, she added.
“I think any woman who is repressed because of religion or faith or culture will find a way to relate to it. It’s not a film about religion, it’s a film about women.”
The film will be screened March 30 at the Colossus Woodbridge theatre in Vaughan, Ont., at 10 a.m.
To reserve seats, call 416-505-1613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org