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Faith Based Resistance to a UN Statement on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls?

Mar 15, 2013 — Categories: , ,

In the face of high profile, horrific violence against women - the attempted assassination of a schoolgirl in Pakistan who had campaigned for education for girls, the brutal rapes and murders of young women in India and South Africa, and, lest we assume this is someone else’s problem, the rape of a drunk woman student in Steubenville, Ohio, by football players - one might assume that the meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focusing this year on the elimination of violence against women and girls would have a singular agenda to speak in one voice on the pandemic of gender based violence that plagues every country of the world.

UPDATE: In spite of opposition from religious and political groups, the UN statement on Violence Against Women was passed on Friday, March 15, 2013.

In the face of high profile, horrific violence against women - the attempted assassination of a schoolgirl in Pakistan who had campaigned for education for girls, the brutal rapes and murders of young women in India and South Africa, and, lest we assume this is someone else’s problem, the rape of a drunk woman student in Steubenville, Ohio, by football players - one might assume that the meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focusing this year on the elimination of violence against women and girls would have a singular agenda to speak in one voice on the pandemic of gender based violence that plagues every country of the world.

But alas, even in the 21st century, we cannot seem to agree that domestic violence, marital rape, and sexual assault are violations of human rights and morally reprehensible. Sadly the resistance appears to come from the Vatican, Arab states such as Iran and Egypt, and Russia. The rationales shared by these groups reverts to garden variety patriarchal values: tradition, custom and religious practice should not be challenged, they say.

So the possibility of a comprehensive international statement condemning all forms of gender based violence is in jeopardy as the UN Commission on the Status of Women concludes its deliberations this week.

I spent last week in New York presenting at the NGO parallel events along with other women faith leaders. The voices of women of faith were loud and clear naming all forms of violence against women and girls as violations of human rights and as sin. The efforts and energies of thousands of women and men from around the world were everywhere in evidence; one could sense the One Billion Rising reality there, the grassroots international movement that is saying “no more.”

We know that faith is fundamental to ending violence against women and that religion is no excuse.  We will not be silent and allow male faith leaders to continue to excuse men’s violence against women and to use spurious justifications from sacred texts.

And yet literally across the street at the United Nations, another conversation was taking place with the same old tired rhetoric that would seek to either ignore or justify the abuse of women and girls around the world. A minority now seeks to block a strong statement affirming the rights of women and girls to live free from violence, a statement that could serve as a foundation to continuing efforts around the world to say “no” to gender based violence.

It is perhaps a painful irony that even as this debate goes on in New York, the Catholic Church has chosen a Pope who opined in 2007:

“Women are naturally unfit for political office. Both the natural order and facts show us that the political being par excellence is male; the Scripture shows us that woman has always been the helper of man who thinks and does, but nothing more.”

We will not expect awareness, appreciation or understanding of the leadership of women in church or state coming from Pope Francis nor leadership on addressing gender based violence.

Similarly the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been outspoken in their resistance to the UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York with statements such as this:

“A woman needs to be confined within a framework that is controlled by the man of the house,” Osama Yehia Abu Salama, a Brotherhood family expert, said of the group’s general approach, speaking in a recent seminar for women training to become marriage counselors. Even if a wife were beaten by her husband, he advised, “Show her how she had a role in what happened to her.”

Just to be clear: the old order of male leadership of our various faith communities is in its last days.  They may not realize it yet, but they are on the wrong side of history. Their inability to even acknowledge that the brutality experienced by women in every country is unacceptable and a moral outrage is but a sign of their demise. The leadership of people of faith, women and men, clergy and lay, who are speaking out as survivors and calling perpetrators to account is reaching critical mass and we will not go back. The tide is turning.

Thanks be to God.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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ending violence against women of all ages

Posted by Louise S. Hiatt at Mar 18, 2013 07:08 PM
Dear Dr. Fortune,

Thank you, your staff, and all women who are doing so much by speaking out for ending violence against all women in all countries. We know that women in political and religious positions have always been among the first to become the "movers and shakers" that have been responsible for changing the lives of so many women around the world. I wholeheartedly support all the hard work that you, and all of those who work with you, are doing to help us to become aware as to what living in these horrible situations are doing to millions of women every day. Every human being has the right to live his/her life free from domestic violence and sexual assault.

Thanks again for all you do. Your willingness to "speak out" and "speak up" is helping to change the lives of so many women. May God be with you as you continue your work.

Sincerely,

Louise S. Hiatt

male religious leaders condoning violence against women

Posted by Debra Michels at Mar 18, 2013 07:09 PM
Boy, is it hard NOT to narrow one's eyes, clench one's jaws, think of these people as "the enemy" and hate them! Actually, that's my first response. But I know that God doesn't agree with them, so I also know their points of view will not prevail. But I'm not there yet - able to forgive them, love them, pray for them. And I do believe in following Christ's teachings. Maybe it'll take time. Maybe I could ask God to move them to change their attitudes - to help them see that they are wrong, to help them repent. Any suggestions will be welcome. I think God is the only one who can really reaching deep into their souls and open their eyes.