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The United Nations, the Bible, and the Church on gender-based violence, gang rape and trafficking.

Posted on: November 25, 2010 12:33 PM
Related Categories: UN Office

A statement from the Anglican Observer at the UN, Ms Helen Grace Wangusa, at the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

"From 25 November to 10 December every year, the United Nations is joined by the international community in observing the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

The 16 days fall between two important international days, namely, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 December) and International Human Rights Day (10 December). These 16 days are set aside as a campaign period to emphasize that all forms of violence against women —whether at local, national, regional and international level[1]— is a violation of human rights.

For 2010 the theme of the UN-led campaign is “Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence against Women”.

Militarism has been defined as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression or military interventions to settle disputes and to enforce economic and political interests.[2] Such militarism has been responsible for acts with impunity, sexual violence and especially rape that have earned the Democratic Republic of Congo the title of “the Rape capital of the World”.

At the Lambeth Conference of 2008 a plenary session was dedicated to violence against women. Since then the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) has focused on creating awareness and championing advocacy on gender based violence.

In November 2009, the Anglican Observer Office at the UN held a consultation on Human Trafficking in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong it soon emerged that this modern day form of slavery is a vicious form of violence that dates back to the first child in the Bible who was trafficked - Joseph,[3] Tamar who was raped,[4] and a concubine who was gang raped and then cut into 12 parts.[5]

For too long, violence against women has been treated as primarily a “domestic issue” and therefore a private matter, and yet it has direct repercussions on poverty and social consequences that go beyond the scope of family to the community and the nation, as was the case in Judges, chapters 19-20. Violence against women is both a development and human rights issue. It is therefore vital to adopt new strategies such as working with men on the elimination of violence against women or in partnership with men’s groups, such as Sonke in Africa, that are working to promote gender equality.

Partnerships are even more important today because of dwindling funds. This is a severe challenge that faces all organisations working on gender-related issues as they compete for limited and dwindling funding. Legitimate women's NGOs and even emerging men's groups are competing for the same dwindling funding.

The other challenge has been the closure of women’s programmes. In many organisations and Anglican Provinces' Women’s Desks have been phased out and yet gender-based violence is escalating and sexual violence, especially rape, has become a weapon of war.

Many nations are slow to institute legislation and proper channels of redress due to the common designation of the issue as “private”. Such countries therefore are not taking full advantage of the UN instruments[6] including Resolution 1888, which recognises rape and related forms of violence as a weapon of war that must be eliminated. There has to be a paradigm shift to work with boys and men to overcome gender based violence, as well as to focus on the supply side of trafficking.

The churches of the Anglican Communion have the duty to advocate on behalf of and defend victims of any form of violence, and to speak out against any cycle of illegal activities perpetuated by weak systems, and biased and unjust legislative structures."

[1] The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS), 22 November 2010.
[2] The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS), 22 November 2010.
[3] The Holy Bible: Genesis 37.26.
[4] The Holy Bible: 2 Samuel 13. 
[5] The Holy Bible: Judges, chapters 19-20.