UBC Graduate Research

Sexual abuse in the South Asian diaspora community of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia Basanti-Sidhu, Harpreet (Jaime)


The sexual abuse of women and girls is a major public health and human rights concern that affects women worldwide and cross-culturally. This research paper specifically examines sexual abuse and violence against women and girls within the South Asian community, focusing on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. In my discussion of reflexivity, I specifically examine my social location and personal experiences in regards to sexual abuse in the South Asian community. This is followed by a discussion of the theoretical concepts that inform my analysis of the key issues explored in this paper. From there, I offer a reflection on the current debate over whether or not culture may indeed be said to inform sexual violence against women and girls within South Asian communities. Having analyzed how culture may be relevant to the treatment of women and girls, I then critically examine my own experiences of growing up within a number of South Asian communities throughout BC. I note that the lessons I learned from my own mother and other members of the South Asian community emphasized both the importance of keeping silent in the face of sexual abuse to protect the reputation of one’s family and the importance of being a “good girl”. This reflection leads into a discussion of the particular social and cultural concepts, such as shame and honour, which may inform understandings of sexual violence against women and girls in South Asian diaspora communities within Western countries. I then examine current research on South Asian women who resist problematic cultural discourses in an effort to resist abusive situations and the therapeutic challenges Western service providers may come up against when working with such women. Following, I examine research on the experiences of front line workers in the Province of British Columbia who have worked with South Asian male perpetrators of intimate partner violence, including sexual violence. I then outline the current frameworks for service delivery for South Asian victims of sexual abuse in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. I offer a number of recommendations to help service providers in the Lower Mainland offer more appropriate support and services to South Asian survivors of sexual abuse. Finally, I discuss what the South Asian community itself can do to address sexual abuse and violence against women and girls.

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada