This week saw the US Presidential race sink to new lows as Donald Trump’s appalling language about women and his alleged behaviour took up the media’s attention and serious policy slipped further down the agenda. What a sad election this is.
The fact that Trump has tried to excuse his language as locker room banter is an insult to most sports people in locker rooms, but also a reminder that macho behaviour can become misogynist very quickly. In the UK this week, another footballer accused of rape was cleared in very murky circumstances.
Gender inequality and injustice are still rampant. I see it daily in the work I do.
The debate about gender is about us! And the truth is that gender is still a big deal here in the UK, in the US and many other western nations, but especially in the developing world where being a girl means fewer opportunities and fewer resources.
We all need to have a view because we are all impacted by the lives of women and girls. We all have mothers. Many of us have daughters and sisters.
So let’s remind ourselves what gender injustice looks like around the world.
About 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives.
Even before girls are born, they are at risk – there are 170 million ‘missing’ girls in Asia because of sex selective abortion.
Trafficking is a major industry – involving billions of $ and up to two million people a year. The majority are female and poor – abused as domestic servants, working in factories or brothels, intimidated, with no rights
Almost 700 million women globally were married before their 18th birthday. Around 250 million were married before 15. Although it’s hard to have accurate numbers because the issue is not considered important.
Girls of 13, even 12 sent to an uncertain and dangerous future of hard work, risky pregnancies and lack of love.
Of the 8 Millennium Development Goals, ambitiously set in 2000, and which ended last year, the one that had lowest success was No5 – to cut maternal mortality by ¾. Doesn’t that tell us something about the priorities of many developing country governments – money for guns or sports stadiums, but not for maternity clinics.
The World Heath Organisation says complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the 2nd highest cause of death in girls 15-19.
How do we respond to this tidal wave of gender injustice?
Do we say complacently, ‘Well things are slowly improving’ Do we get angry about all the things that are wrong?
Or do we decide to take positive action –
pray, give money for community projects, educate our own girls and boys about these injustices
Do we speak out?
We need actions that acknowledge that every life is valuable because God thinks we are all valuable – regardless of whether we live in Kensington or a Calais refugee camp or a one bed hut in Kenya.
Can I get a bit religious? In the days of the early church, Paul, one of the leaders, came across a slave girl who was trapped in exploitation as a fortune teller. He sets her free from an evil spirit, he frees her from economic exploitation (much to the annoyance of the slave owners) and gives her the chance to have a new life. And he gets thrown into jail for tackling injustice.
It’s a story that takes up just 4 sentences but it shows us what life can be like when we take the time to care for girls who are trapped. The girl had no choices when Paul met her – she was a slave in every sense. And she was set free in every sense.
We need to remind ourselves of the value of a spiritual underpinning to the practical support, help for the family, teaching and empowering that we can offer girls and women.
I want my daughter to have dreams and hopes and to be able to have choices about family and career or both or … without being judged, without having to shatter glass ceilings. I want girls living in economic and social poverty to see their dreams realized too.
God promised to give beauty in exchange for ashes, wherever they live and whatever restrictions society may impose.
Donald Trump’s sleaziness must not triumph.