Our House of Assembly is known to be a place of spirited debate which sometimes crosses the line into raucous name-calling and disruptive behaviour.
The culture in our political system has been much debated during the present sitting of the House with most of the attention being around the behavior of some male members and a report into alleged bullying conduct which was tabled and debated.
One thing that was quite clear throughout this process was that there is a culture in which female members did not always feels that the House was a safe place for them and it is hoped that better rules and guidelines will be put in place moving forward to create a more productive workplace for all.While it appears that there was a great deal of dissatisfaction on all sides around how the process was carried out, it seems that members are ready to move on.
While the bullying debate received the most attention, government also passed two other pieces of legislation which will primarily benefit women in this province who have their physical and emotional safety threatened by their intimate partners.
The first change will be to provide for family leave for victims of family violence who are in the process of fleeing this environment.
The amendments to the Labour Standards Act will allow for people to take up to ten days leave from work with three of those being paid and the other seven unpaid.
Victims of family violence can use this time to seek medical attention, attend counseling and find a new place to live and this will give them some kind of buffer to begin their transition to this new time in their lives.
It has long been noted by those who work in the area that economic factors often provide a barrier to women leaving abusive relationships and having this legislation in place will provide some options in making the choice to leave.
There is still a long way to go before we can make a real impact in this problem but this legislation is a start and government has committed to reviewing it later to see if it can be improved.
In a rare show of solidarity, both labour groups and employer groups are in favor of this legislation which points to the impact such violence has in our society.
The second significant piece of legislation concerns the sharing of intimate images or what is generally referred to as “revenge porn.”
The new legislation provides a recourse for people who have had nude images of themselves shared on social media without their permission, usually by an ex-partner.
The new legislation allows for criminal charges as well as civil charges and an important part of this is that if someone shares intimate photos or videos of another person, the onus is on them to prove that had permission to do so rather than the victim having to prove that they did not give permission.
While this activity does affect men as well, revenge porn has predominantly been used against women and the threat of sharing intimate photos has often been used as leverage within relationships to keep control over a woman who may want to leave an unhealthy partner. The new changes give some of this power back to the women and provide some clear consequences for those who choose to break this law.
Considering that what is shared online remains circulating forever, the impact of revenge porn can be devastating and life-altering.
Based on these changes, we are starting to move in the right direction when it comes to these types of issues.
The things which benefit women in our society will also benefit men and families.
Men who are respectful of the women in their lives have nothing to fear from these changes while those who are not need to be aware that such behavior will no longer be tolerated.
Whether it is in the House of Assembly or in our homes, we all deserve to be treated with equality and respect.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.