On Tuesday, Oct. 18 Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-AD 38) joined the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) at the Queens Family Justice Center for a media roundtable on addressing domestic violence in the South Asian diaspora. The Assemblywoman delivered the keynote speech to an audience of members of the press and advocates for South Asian and Indo-Caribbean women.
ENDGBV Commissioner Cecile Noel said: “It’s been my great privilege to work alongside Assemblywoman Rajkumar to help survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. As a Queens resident myself, I am so happy that her voice is in our State Assembly, that we have an advocate who truly understands survivors and the challenges that they face.”
Extracts from Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s Speech:
“Let me start by saying domestic violence has no place in South Asian culture. Our culture celebrates the divine feminine and the strength of women. We have Goddesses like Laxmi and Durga embedded in our culture…New Yorkers hailing from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are accustomed to woman prime ministers and heads of state. Incredible activists and organizations fighting for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls all across the South Asian diaspora have always existed. For centuries they have been a part of our culture pushing for equal rights for women and girls from Kabul to India to Dhakka to Georgetown to right here in New York. Some of those organizations are here today, including Manavi, Family Justice Center, Womankind, Women for Afghan Women, Jahajee Sisters, Safe Horizon, and South Queens Women’s March.
“Violence against women has no place in our culture. We get to define what our culture is, and the powerful women assembled here today have a say in the matter. Malala Yousaf was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan simply because she went to school. But Malala said, ‘I will get my education, and I am afraid of no one.’ Goddess Kali fights fearlessly on the battlefield.
“My Richmond Hill district suffered a tragic loss this August when Mandeep Kaur – a beloved member of our Sikh Punjabi community – committed suicide after suffering 8 years of physical and psychological abuse by her husband. After Mandeep Kaur’s tragic death, I declared my office as a sanctuary for women who need help, particularly immigrant women whose nearest family may live an ocean away. If you are experiencing domestic violence, myself and the resources of the State of New York are here for you. So to any domestic violence survivors watching experiencing abuse, all I ask for you today is to take the first step and reach out today. Pick up a phone, send an email. Visit our offices. We are here for you.
“I have also established a task force led by my senior staffer Amrit Kaur to investigate and report on domestic violence within the South Asian American community, including the unique needs of South Asian women in abusive situations. The task force will also provide any assistance needed to coordinate the parallel investigations by the NYPD and the police in South Asian countries.
“As the only woman ever elected to this seat, let me be abundantly clear: There will be zero tolerance for violence against women in my district. Anyone who commits such morally depraved crimes must face the full consequences of our criminal justice system.
“Here is the current state of affairs. Billions of women and girls around the world are experiencing violence. It’s endemic. In the South Asian Diaspora the domestic violence statistics are high. As many as 40% of South Asian women have experienced domestic violence. Some studies show 2 of every 5 South Asian women. There is chronic underreporting of domestic violence and the term ‘domestic violence’ is not even in the vocabulary of many South Asians.
“It’s well documented that gender inequality quite literally costs us. If there was complete gender equality, there’d be $28 trillion more in global GDP, or an additional 26 percent added to our economy in just 3 years. Even marginal investments in women’s empowerment have a substantial impact on GDP growth.
“I’m your Assemblywoman, and in this year’s state budget I successfully advocated for $34.4 million in financial assistance to domestic violence survivors. My sisters in the cause here today have other tools to help South Asian women – special visas you can petition for so your immigration status does not depend on your family members if you are experiencing violence, shelters that you can go to, and rights you have to hold on to your housing and to your employment if you are experiencing violence at home.”
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar joined the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence at the Queens Family Justice Center for a media roundtable on addressing domestic violence in the South Asian diaspora. Joining Assemblywoman Rajkumar at the “round” table are Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel; Susan Jacob Executive Director, NYC Family Justice Center Queens; Simone Devi Jhingoor, Co-founder and Co-Executive Director, Jahajee Sisters;Pooja Raj-Green, Senior Associate Director of Counseling & Youth Services, Sakhi for South Asian Women; Christine Perumal, Director of Domestic Violence Law Project, Safe Horizon; Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Esq., Founder & Executive Director, South Queens Women’s March; Naheed Samadi Bahram, US Country Director, Women for Afghan Women; Navneet Bhalla, Executive Director, Manavi; and Yasmeen Hamza, Chief Executive Officer, Womankind.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar with Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel.