VIOLENCEagainstWOMEN: ITS SCOPE AND RELEVANCE FOR THE CHURCH TODAY Women’s Ministries Department General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists
I -INTRODUCTION “So I take a blanket and I spend the night with my children out in the cold because he is hitting me too much and I have to take the kids to stop him hitting them too. I would go up the mountain, and sleep there all night. I’ve done that more than ten times.” Woman interviewed in Peru
Gender-based violenceis a global public health, economic development and human rights problem of epidemic proportions • Approximately one in three of the world’s women will experience gender-related violence in her lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries.
“…violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” United Nations’ General Assembly Declaration of the Elimination of Violence against Women(resolution 48/104 of December 1993
II. BACK TO BASICS: A FOUNDATION • “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you! God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple. For Gods’ temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple.” 1 Cor. 3:16, 17 (TEV)
III. RECOGNIZING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN • Violence against women jeopardizes women’s lives, bodies, psychological integrity and freedom and has been called the “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world.”
Activity 1: Definition of Violence Against Women • What does the phrase “violence against women” mean to you? • What acts do you consider to be “violence against women”?
A. EXPANDED • The definition for violence against women is amplified in article 2 of the United Nations Declaration, which identifies three areas in which violence commonly takes place:
1. In the FAMILY • Physical, sexual and psychological violence that occurs in the family, including battering; sexual abuse of female children in the household; dowry-related violence; marital rape; female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women; non-spousal violence; and violence related to exploitation;
2. Within the COMMUNITY • Physical, sexual and psychological violence that occurs within the general community,including rape; sexual abuse; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution;
3. Perpetrated or condoned by THE STATE • Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
B. THE PROBLEM • Women often suffer harm which is either unique to their gender, such as female genital mutilation or forced non-choice abortion, or which is more commonly inflicted upon women than men, such as rape or domestic violence.
Women may also suffer harm solely or exclusively because they are women, i.e. as a result of their gender, such as the policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan. • Women often suffer harm at the hands of private individuals, such as family members who threaten them with honor killings, or abusive spouses who batter them.
IV. KINDS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN We can place various types of violence against women in three main categories. We will list them and then talk briefly about each one.
A. Violence Against Women in the Family Setting • Domestic violence • Traditional practices • Female genital mutilation • Son preference • Dowry-related violence and early marriage
1. Domestic violence • For women aged 15 to 44 years, violence is a major cause of death and disability. • Studies show that between one quarter and one half of all women in the world have been abused by intimate partners. Worldwide, 40-70% of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.
2. Traditional practices • In many countries, women fall victim to traditional practices that violate their human rights. • These violations include female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM), dowry murder, so-called “honour killings,” and early marriage.
3. Female genital mutilation • According to the World Health Organization, 85 million to 115 million girls and women in the population have undergone some form of female genital mutilation and suffer from its adverse health effects.
Every year an estimated 2 million young girls undergo this procedure. Most live in Africa and Asia—but an increasing number can be found among immigrant and refugee families in Western Europe and North America.. • It is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, mainly in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, and two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation.
4. Son preference • Son preference is the consistent favoring of male children, affects women in many countries, particularly in Asia. Its consequences can be anything from foetal or female infanticide to neglect of the girl child over her brother.
In China and India, some women choose to terminate their pregnancies when expecting daughters but carry their pregnancies to term when expecting sons. • Indian gender-detection clinics drew protests from women's groups after the appearance of advertisements suggesting that it was better to spend $38 now to terminate a female foetus than $3,800 later on her dowry.
5. Dowry-related violence and early marriage • In some countries, weddings are preceded by the payment of an agreed-upon dowry by the bride's family. Failure to pay the dowry can lead to violence
In Bangladesh, a bride whose dowry was deemed too small was disfigured after her husband threw acid on her face. • Small community studies have also indicated that dowry demands have played an important role in women being burned to death and in deaths of women being labeled suicides. • In India, an average of five women a day are burned in dowry-related disputes—and many more cases are never reported.
B. Violence Against Women in the Community • Rape • Sexual assault within marriage • Sexual harassment • Prostitution and trafficking • Pornography • Mistreatment of women migrant workers
1. Rape • Rape can occur anywhere, even in the family, where it can take the form of marital rape or incest. • It occurs in the community, where a woman can fall prey to any abuser. • It also occurs in situations of armed conflict and in refugee camps.
A report of seven different countries found that more than 60% of sexual assault victims know their attackers. • In South Africa, a sex crime happens every twenty seconds. • In some countries, up to one-third of adolescent girls report forced sexual initiation. • In the United States, national statistics indicate that a woman is raped every six minutes.
2. Sexual assault within marriage • Sexual assault within marriage is included under this category because it is the community attitudes prevalent in many areas—attitudes held by law enforcement, local leaders, neighbors, and even church leadership—which allow this type of violence to go unpunished
3. Sexual harassment • Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing concern for women. Employers abuse their authority to seek sexual favours from their female co-workers or subordinates, sometimes promising promotions or other forms of career advancement.
4. Prostitution and trafficking • Many women are forced into prostitution either by their parents, husbands or boyfriends—or as a result of the difficult economic and social conditions in which they find themselves.
An estimated two million women are caught each year in the worldwide sex industry while countless children and other women are forced into low-wage jobs. • In Thailand, prostitutes who complain to the police are often arrested and sent back to the brothels upon payment of a fine. • More than 100,000 women are trafficked annually in South Asia.
5. Pornography • Another concern highlighted is pornography, which represents a form of violence against women that "glamorizes the degradation and maltreatment of women and asserts their subordinate function as mere receptacles for male lust."
According to comScore Media Metrix, there were 63.4 million unique visitors to adult websites in December of 2005, reaching 37.2% of the Internet audience. • According to the Florida Family Association, PornCrawler, their specialized software program, identified 20 U.S. companies that accounted for more than 70 percent of 297 million porn links on the Internet.
6. Violence against women migrant workers • The migrant workers themselves fare badly, and sometimes tragically. Many become virtual slaves, subject to abuse and rape by their employers. • In the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, there are an estimated 1.2 million women, mainly Asians, who are employed as domestic servants.
C. Violence perpetrated or condoned by States Examples include: • Custodial violence against women • Violence against women in situations of armed conflict • Violence against refugee and displaced women
1. Custodial violence against women • Violence against women by the very people who are supposed to protect them—members of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems—is widespread.
2. Violence against women in situations of armed conflict • Rape has been widely used as a weapon of war whenever armed conflicts arise between different parties. It has been used all over the world: in Chiapas, Mexico, in Rwanda, in Kuwait, in Haiti, in Colombia.
3. Violence against refugee and displaced women • Women and children form the great majority of refugee populations all over the world and are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation. In refugee camps, they are raped and abused by military and immigration personnel, bandit groups, male refugees and rival ethnic groups.
V. GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE CHURCH • Many denominations and communities of faith recognize the urgent need to end the violence against women and to bring about justice.
A. SPEAKING OUT • Many have created, or support, organizations working to create awareness, to educate the public, and to find ways to stop the violence.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is also speaking out about violence against women. We recognize that as believers in a heavenly Father, we must become agents of change, helping to end the evils of abuse and gender-based violence—both in society and within the church itself.
B. Abuse within the Flock The importance of this topic was underscored by Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church. Paulsen emphasized that “violence of any kind in the church” is unacceptable: “We need to develop a culture of kindness, care, consideration, [and] non-abuse….[It] is not just physical; mental [emotional] abuse can be just as bad.” (“Culture of Kindness Can Help Stop…,” Adventist World-NAD, August 2007, pp. 6-7)
As a church, we must find ways to change attitudes and traditions that condone or excuse abuse. We must consciously work to eliminate the attitudes as well as the practices.
VI. GLOBAL AND LOCAL • The meaning of gender and sexuality and the balance of power between women and men at all levels of society must be reviewed. Combating violence against women requires challenging the way that gender roles and power relations are articulated in society.
A. THINKING GLOBALLY • Combating violence against women requires challenging the way that gender roles and power relations are articulated in society.
Activity 2: Violence against Women as a Human Rights Violation • What definition of the term “violence against women” is given in the UN statement? • What human rights are violated by violence against women? • What parts of these documents are most relevant to our local community?
B. THINKING LOCALLY • If there is to be global change, we must confront the problems locally. The impact we can make locally can have an influence globally, but change must begin locally. Each of us must realize “I can be a change agent. I can make a difference.”
Activity 3:Here and Now • It is important to raise awareness of global aspects of gender-based violence. It is also important to look at problems of abuse and violence which are close to us. What are the causes, the needs, the obstacles in my area?
VII. ACTION • During this presentation, we have heard about many types of gender violence. We recognize the harm such abuse does—to our families, our community, and our society. Together, we can find ways to address some issues most relevant to our community or society. Let’s list some of your ideas.
A. WHAT CAN I DO? • Educate ourselves about the gender-based violence most prevalent in our community. • Evaluate our culture and traditions.. • Question the beliefs and traditions that undergird gender violence and discrimination. • Support an organization working to eradicate gender-based violence such as sex trafficking, domestic violence, and prostitution.
Donate regularly or hold a fundraiser. • Encourage local law enforcement agencies to receive specialized training for dealing with domestic abuse, and to devote resources to prevention of gender-based violence.