Today (November 25th) is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Not exactly a day to ‘celebrate’ so much as to lament, that all round the world, women live with abuse and girls grow up in fear.
In some cultures, women are still seen as inferior in intelligence and strength. They may even be seen as commodities. 68 percent of women in India suffer from some sort of domestic violence, and it continues to grow. At least 300,000 pregnancies with female fetuses are terminated each year, according to The Lancet.
But before we condemn ‘other’ cultures (and religions) as the cause of all this violence, it is a sad fact that gender violence happens in supposedly Christian places too. 52% of Peruvian women have been slapped by their partner, according to the World Health Organization. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than one in three men surveyed in the war-torn east admits committing sexual assault, and 75% believe that a woman who “does not dress decently is asking to be raped”.
Laws will not eliminate violence though they do send a clear and necessary message that there is legal punishment and that physical and emotional abuse are wrong.
What we need are lots of positive strong role models who speak, demonstrate and teach that women and girls are precious and that violence demeans men as much as women.
Women can help to press for better attitudes and behaviour.
We can support our friends.
We can show our daughters by our example that we will not comply with sexist views, that we will not smile at sexist jokes even if men say, “it’s only a bit of fun,” and we will stand firm in the face of verbal abuse.
We can raise sons who are gentle, strong, godly models of right behaviour.
We can campaign to end child marriage, to stop barbaric genital mutilation (FGM) and we can speak out to protect others.
BUT we also need men to model right behaviour and dads to teach their sons and daughters that we are all created in God’s image and that we all matter. Dads need to teach their boys that their sisters are more than beautiful princesses with a passion for pink; they are strong, intelligent, sensitive and worthy of respect.
In the West, Christian men and women need to take a stand against everything that would commodify women and increase the risk of violence – pornographic sex, prostitution, the twitter tendency to use abusive language against women and girls and the appallingly casual attitudes to abuse that was popular in ‘Shades of Grey’.
My dad is the father of three girls and never once did I think he was disappointed that he had no son. Never once was he violent, never was he he disparaging about girls. I think he had to learn about equality because he was born into a world (between the wars) where men took it for granted that they would take the lead, but he was teachable! His girls have all become capable, strong, caring women who have made quietly significant contributions to community, church and family.
So on this day, let’s acknowledge the terrible facts about gender violence but also stand up for hope that God can restore men and women to right relationships.
[My father] taught me, in his own stumbling, unorthodox, wordless way, to respect women—that they are more than one-night stands and objects of amusement. In every instance, there’s a soul beneath that supple, scented skin, and you should never stroke one without first touching the other. Joe Kitta, Wisdom of Our Fathers
Take a look at Restored.com to see how the church can respond to violence against women.
Pray for all the dads you know (and your brothers too) that they can be wonderful models of loving, gentle and strong behaviour.