Category Archives: Violence Against Women

Two months on…

How time flies. It’s now two months since the end of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, so what’s happened since?

On returning there has been a flurry of feeding back highlights, key points to consider, consultations with the C of E head office. This is alongside blogging for Restored and doing my normal job. Noting that I need to lead by example, I have met with my MP, Dr Vince Cable, asking him to find out how the UK government plans to take forward the agreed conclusions. I have to admit Dr Cable was humble and said “We’ll do the homework you’ve set us and get back to you”. It took me a month to get the meeting with him  but I am hoping to hear back from him sooner. I have also been using to meet with my own vicar at St Stephen’s Church in Twickenham. That’s been harder than getting an appointment to see my MP due to clashing diaries. I will hopefully meet him in June to discuss what we as a church can do.

I have also done a media interview with Maria Rodrigues Toth on her Woman to Woman show due to go out tomorrow, Friday, at 11am. This was a great opportunity to highlight the issues and also what the church can do. Noting the work of Restored and the free resources available on the website http://www.restorederelationships.org.

I have presented initial findings and recommendations to the Mission and Public Affairs Council in the C of E. I still need to write a formal report for their consideration. The MPA meeting provided a good discussion, not only on what the church is doing locally, but also what can  be done in the future. I will also be conducting a side event at the General Synod in York in July on the issue.

There is still much to do. This week alone we have seen men convicted of raping young women in Oxford. Today there are newspaper reports of a premiership footballer being accused of rape. There is still much work to be done. You would no doubt expect me to do something but I can’t do this alone. I am one voice in the crowd. It can get lost in the noise of society. It needs us all to speak up and speak out if we are to make a sustained change in our culture and society until violence against women has been eradicated.

What will you do?

What do the agreed conclusions mean for us?

Agreed Conclusions

Finally on Wednesday, just as I was about to leave wifi for a few days, the agreed conclusions were put up online by the UN CSW. But what do they mean for us and why are they important? Here’s a brief overview of what we need to take note of and, as you would expect, take action.

1. Firstly the agreed conclusions are not legally binding. Governments are tetchy about signing things at the UN that force them to do things. Indeed there was an ongoing battle at this CSW to ensure the removal of the term ‘sovereignty’ from the text which would mean that countries didn’t really have to implement the conclusions.  This was strongly opposed, after all, if you agree by consensus why would you want a get out clause?  The agreed conclusions do place a strong imperative on governments to implement the agreement, alongside the need to report back next year on actions taken to do just this.

2. The agreed conclusions give NGO’s and churches an opportunity to lobby their respective governments to put into action what they have signed up to do. It’s a great opportunity to see more action, funding, resources, political effort and will to end violence against women. NGO’s and churches can ask governments to indicate how they are implementing the required actions, and if not, to justify why certain things have not happened. I will be asking my MP, Dr Vince Cable, how the government will be implementing the conclusions. Will you do the same?

3. ‘Violence against women and girls is characterised by the use and abuse of power and control in public and private spheres, and is intrinsically linked to gender stereotypes…’ (point 10). This acknowledges what we know in that violence takes place in the home ( private sphere) and IS our business. It is not ‘just a domestic’, nor ‘none of my business’. Gone are the days when we think that what happens behind closed doors is nothing to do with us. It is our business. It is our church. We need to speak out. At a hard-nosed economic end it costs the British public billions of pounds a year to deal with domestic abuse. It costs us all economically, socially, spiritually and in many lost work hours.

4. Gender stereotypes are a cause and consequence of violence against women. Is it time to re-look and examine ourselves to see if we are perpetuating stereotypes of men and women? Do we make subtle remarks? Or obvious ones? Don McPherson challenged us all in the engaging men and boys workshop to not use phrases like ‘Throws like a girl’. He said this did two things; it created unhealthy competition between his son and daughter; and undermined the value of his daughter. Do we still make comments such as ‘woman driver’, ‘must be the time of the month’, ‘don’t be such a girl!’?  Time to change the rhetoric.

5. In these agreed conclusions we see a reference to religious institutions. This is something I was lobbying for as part of the Church of England’s key messages. The Commission strongly condemned ‘invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations’. This means we cannot justify violence against women and girls through our theology, scriptures and cultural practices. It means that we as a church, need to examine ourselves and see if anything we are doing directly or indirectly leads to violence against women. If we did this it could have wide reaching implications on the way we are as church, what we preach and teach to ensure that there is no misunderstanding nor misinterpretation of scripture that could lead to justifying violence. None of us would deliberately (mis)use scripture to coerce and manipulate right? I wish I could sit here and say a resounding yes to that. But I have listened to enough stories of Christian women both in the UK and overseas, that tell a different story. ‘I expect my wife to bow down before me as I bow down before Christ’ are the words of a rural Zimbabwean Pastor that will ring in my ears for years to come. Yes some of it is theological education and understanding the hermeneutics and exegesis of the Bible. Alongside this we have to remember and recall that the church is full of recovering sinners, addicted to sin. We are all at different points in our journey of faith, but we cannot allow abuse to happen along that journey. We need to challenge the abuse happening in our churches.

6. Under x its states ‘Prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women and girls that are perpetrated by people in positions of authority, such as teachers, religious leaders,…’ Here the governments are specifically asked not to give any special ‘get out of jail free cards’ to our vicars, curates, Bishops and Archbishops. When we see violence happen we need to take action, no matter how hard it may seem. There is a victim on the other end who needs our support, care and compassion. We need to be more victim and survivor centered in our approach and response to violence against women to avoid any collusion with a perpetrator of abuse.

7.  Part B headlines ‘Addressing structural and underlying causes and risk factors so as to prevent violence against women and girls’ (VAWG). In here we see a host of action and reaffirmation of action to prevent VAWG including addressing ‘unequal power relations between men and women‘. This will no doubt ring alarm bells for some. The Church of England will need to look at this and see how it wants to take this forward. As we have seen at Synod, there are strong views on both sides about women bishops debate. Does this constitute a violence against women denying them a right to progress in their calling? Some would argue strongly that it does, others that this is not a violence but staying tune to Biblical teaching. One thing is for sure, we need to be aware of how unequal power relations can lead to violence and make steps to ensure that violence does not result from the decisions we make.

8. ‘Engage, educate, encourage and support men and boys to take responsibility for their behaviour‘ A focus of this CSW was women and men working together to end violence against women. Men talking to men, calling out violence, challenging themselves and their dominate cultural masculinities. So in our churches, Men’s breakfasts, Men’s work groups how are we going to open up the space to actively talk about masculinities (note plural) and it’s impact on our relationships at home, work, church etc.

9. ‘Recognise the role the media can play in eliminating gender stereotypes….and refraining from presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects’. When I see this my mind goes straight to Page 3. How in 2013 do we still have a national newspaper legally allowed to objectify women on a daily basis in a paper that children are allowed to purchase? It does make me really angry that this is defended under the guise of free press. Will we join in the campaign to end page 3 or we will continue to be complicit in this objectification by our silence? I will continue to speak out on this one.

10. Point mm relates specifically to addressing and changing ‘attitudes, behaviours and practices that condone gender stereotypes … and violence against women and girls‘. This recognises the role that religious leaders can play in changing attitudes and behaviours. Getting religious leaders including in here is a victory as it acknowledges the positive role the church can, does and is playing in the UK and internationally in the Anglican Communion to bring violence to and end. Whether it is doing the simple thing of putting posters in the women’s toilets to access help, or going further and teaching and training on how to become a safe church, there is much we can share within the church on ending violence against women.  The church is about positive change, about transformation, about new life, about freedom. Freedom for the survivor of violence and freedom for the perpetrator in being bound by believing abuse of power is better than love and grace. After all the church welcomes all, but don’t expect to leave the same.

You can read the full agreed conclusions here. They are not simply for governments to implement but for us too. After all we create our culture and our environment together. We can contribute to keeping it the same or challenge and change it. What do you want to do? 

Statement from the Anglican Communion Delegation at the UN CSW 57th Session March 2013

Statement from the Anglican Communion Delegation at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 2013

A Call to Raise our Voices: Faith in Action

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1.17

We, the Anglican Communion delegation of women from 14 Churches and 17 countries, gathered in New York, 4 to 15 March 2013, to participate in the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW57).The priority theme for UN CSW57 was ‘The Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls’.

As women of faith and representing the diversity of the Anglican family of Churches, we observed the proceedings of UN CSW57 and listened to a wide range of speakers. Where possible we met face to face with our country missions to the UN in order to advocate directly with them on behalf of women and girls in our different regions. We also participated in a full programme of UN and non-governmental side events dedicated to the priority theme. These meetings and side events gave us an opportunity to learn, and to share insights and concerns from our home contexts with government representatives, members of other church and faith traditions and non-governmental organisations. We were also able to share with others the progress we have made in many of our Churches, where leaders have spoken out and championed the work needed to end violence against women and girls and care for survivors, and where resources have been developed to assist our moving forward.

We thank God for the progress we have made. However, violence against women and girls continues as a global and often hidden pandemic.

Women and girls make up more than half the world’s population but many of them live in the shadow of violence and abuse with up to seven in ten women having undergone physical and/or sexual violence. Violence against women and girls takes on multiple forms – physical, sexual, psychological, social and economic, and includes interpersonal/domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and forced prostitution. It is a proven fact that violence against women and girls adversely impacts all of society. Violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of gender inequality and gender injustice, compounded by numerous forms of discrimination.

The Church worldwide must be part of the solution.  Wetherefore urge all the Churches of the Anglican Communion:

1. to continue and build on the positive work already being undertaken towards the eradication of violence against women and girls
2. where silence and inaction persist, to end it. Speak out and begin the work.
3. to include men and boys as an integral part of seeking solutions to, and eradicating violence against women and girls
4. to implement Anglican Consultative Council Resolutions 15.07 on gender-based and domestic violence and 15.10 on the trafficking of persons
5. to encourage churches at parish level to become places of refuge and safety and participate actively in addressing violence against women and girls
6. to create awareness and provide training for clergy and the laity to recognise violence and to address it effectively.

 

We draw attention to existing resources around the Anglican Communion to facilitate and empower churches in their work towards eradicating violence against women and girls.

We affirm that all people are made in the image of God and that violence against women and girls mars God’s creation. We also affirm that Scripture brings the message of freedom, justice and love.

We call the Churches to recover their prophetic voice in speaking out against the gross injustice of violence against women and girls.

We challenge our Churches to become agents of justice, peace and reconciliation. Reconciliation must be preceded by transformation and accountability. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, recently reflected: ‘There is a challenge to active cooperation with the life of God in our lives now. We live and we serve. The recognition by the Samaritan of the other as his neighbour leads to action, not mere existence. He becomes a herald of reconciliation.’

We are deeply grateful to the Anglican Communion Office at the UN for facilitating and supporting the Anglican presence at UN CSW57, and to The Episcopal Church for offering us space and a warm welcome within the Episcopal Church Center. We also extend heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers who so generously gave of their time to extend to us hospitality and care. We enjoyed and benefitted considerably from the fellowship of other Anglican and Episcopal women and men present in New York for events surrounding UN CSW57, and sincerely appreciated our interaction with Ecumenical Women, an international coalition of churches and ecumenical organisations which have status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations.

We commit ourselves to promoting the Five Marks of Mission, and in particular to seeking to transform unjust structures of society, challenging violence of every kind and pursuing peace and reconciliation. We pray for God’s grace and guidance as we strive to participate in God’s transforming mission in the world.

We Will Speak Out – International Women’s Day 2013

IDW March 2013

This will be an International Women’s Day that I will remember for a long time to come. Not just because I shook the hand of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but also because of the sense of a step change in seeing violence against women ended. From the number of faith organizations engaged here at the CSW, which has  increased considerably since 2010, but also the level of welcome that people of faith have received.

My day started with a workshop in conjunction with Terrie Robinson of the Anglican Communion looking at a church response to violence against women. Entitled ‘We Will Speak Out: Churches ending violence against women’ we aimed to communicate what action the global Anglican communion was taking to end violence against women (VAW) and also, more specifically, what the Church of England is doing.

Terrie started out by looking at the Primates letter from the meeting on Dublin, Ireland in 2011, which states ‘our churches must accept responsibility for our own part in perpetuating oppressive attitudes towards women. In penitence and faith we must move forward in such a way that our churches truly become a living witness to our belief that both women and men are made in the image of God.’ This was followed up with the ACC resolution 15-7 on gender based and domestic violence agreed in November 2012. This, among other points, says the Anglican Communion ‘ endorses and encourages Anglican engagement worldwide with the We Will Speak Out coalition of churches and Christian agencies against sexual violence.’  It goes on to encourage theological colleges to train clergy and ministers on the ‘natured dynamics of gender based violence’ and the theological basis for ending violence against women. It furthermore encourages leaders to engage in campaigns to end violence against women.

My part was to speak out about the Church of England’s action on this issue. Siting the 2004 Synod motion which ‘urges all dioceses to consider ways in which they could (i) work in partnership with other agencies, co-operating sensitively with those serving minority communities, to provide the resources needed by victims and their families; (ii) speak out against the evil of domestic violence; and (iii) work for justice and safety in the homes of this nation.’ This resulted in the publication of Pastoral guidelines in 2006 to help churches respond to the issue of domestic abuse.

Practical examples of churches engaging in ending domestic abuse vary across England. For example my own church, St Stephen’s Twickenham, have had a few of the volunteer staff trained by Restored. We have also put up posters in the toilets for women to access help and support, along with me speaking at two services on the 25th November, the start of the global 16 days of activism to end violence against women. A church in Carlisle is running training for churches across the diocese on addressing domestic abuse and linking in with the local services provided. Each church trained has a ‘champion’ who raises the issue an acts as a point person for women to contact. There are simple things that can be done that can make a big difference. Restored’s church pack is a useful starting point and all the copies at the workshop went very quickly. It seems there isa  real thirst for practical tools to respond.

Having dumped our bags at ‘815’ (815 second avenue, the Episcopal Church centre that hosts the Anglican Communion and Ecumenical Women during the CSW, and does it so very well), we headed to the UN for the International Women’s Day march. It was snowing, very cold and wet. On arrival we were given tabards to wear as part of the march. We head off being led by Susan Sarandon to a street near by where we heard speeches from Christie Turlington-Barnes, Mrs Ban, among others. Susan Sarandon read out a letter from Malala (the girl from Pakistan who was shot on her way to school) which encouraged us all to stand up for the rights of girls. A well-timed call as some nations are trying to remove the language of ‘girls’ from the agreed resolutions.

Then Ban Ki-moon came on the platform. Everyone cheered. He is such a respected man by so many of us in working to end violence against women. He has taken action from his inception as UN Secretary General, to highlight the issue of violence against women. He established the baseline data and then moved into action. He encouraged the setting up Say No – UNite which calls on us all to take action to end violence against women, along with his network of male leaders to make a stand to end violence against women. Mr Ban did this at a time when engaging men was nowhere near as popular as it is today. Not surprising he is so well respected.

Cold, wet and soggy after the rally with sopping wet feet, I began to leave the march. As I came to the side of the platform Mr Ban was coming down the steps. I suddenly felt like a teenager at a gig with my hero standing so close. I made my way to the front and shook his hand and said thank you for all that he was doing. Thank you was all I could think of at the time. Thank you for standing with us. Thank you for leading the way for high profile men to make a stand to end violence against women and say no more. Maybe the simple heartfelt thank you was enough. Of course, it’s moment I will be recalling to my friends and family for a long time to come and long after they become bored of hearing the tale!

Restored has a Christian men’s campaign to end violence against women called ‘First Man Standing‘. It already has a good few hundred men signed up around the world committed to speaking up and out about ending violence against women. It’s linked with Christian Vision for Men (CVM) in the UK and also the White Ribbon Campaign UK. So if like Ban Ki-moon you’d like to join in the campaign to end violence against women, sign up here.

Days like International Women’s Day are needed. Needed to highlight the progress made but also the work still to be done. Here’s hoping that next year there will be less women abused and killed due to intimate partner violence. And here’s to a future free from violence.

In conversation with Ruby and Sorrel of NAWO Youth Caucus

One thing that I’ve noticed about this CSW is that there is a noticeable, and very welcome increase, in the number of young people participating. One of the UK civil society groups here is NAWO (www.nawo.org.uk) who do an amazing job coordinating the UK NGO delegation at the CSW both on site and before we arrive. Zarin Hainsworth of NAWO has been instrumental in getting a large number of young people from the UK to this CSW session. I took the opportunity to speak to two of them this morning, Ruby Goddard (RG) and Sorrel Macleod (SM), on their reflections of participating in the CSW as first timers. This is what they had to say.

photo (1)

Sorrel Macleod and Ruby Goddard

Q1. Why did you want to come to CSW?

RG: Zarin informed me about it through our school. I looked it up and saw what it was about and said ‘I’m in!

SM: I saw it was about women’s rights and thought I’m in!

Q2. What has stood out most to you about the CSW?

SM: Everyone’s dedication and passion on women’s rights. We had a little easy getting here [MM note: They paid for themselves to get here so not that easy] but others have faced big obstacles. It’s a privilege to just be here.

RG: What’s struck me most is how much I don’t know and how much work there still is to do. I’ve learnt a lot by being here and still have a lot to learn.It’s made me motivated to push the cause [SM interjects ‘Hell yeah!’]

Q3. What has been a challenge?

SM: It’s so full on. There is so much to go to. It’s good seeing something can be done [about women’s rights]

RG: It’s so broad an issue, there is no end to what needs and can be done. I’ve learnt that you need to find a section and focus on it.

Q4. So what did you focus on?

RG: Widows. I’ve found myself quite drawn to the issue of widows. Originally I thought this issue doesn’t concern me but when I looked into it it hadn’t received the attention it deserves. Now I’m quite passionate about widows and their rights.

SM: Trafficking. I’m very angry about how much trafficking is going on and how much I cared about it. There is so much of it going on and not just in third world countries but in the UK too.

RG: ‘Yes we heard yesterday about gangs in the UK and how many girls have been killed, raped or sold into prostitution in the UK’

Q5. What one thing will you take away with you from this CSW?

SM: The need to keep working and lobbying and asking the question, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ [ending violence against women]

RG: The need to raise awareness on the issue and tell others about the situation

SM: And what I can do about it

Q6. How will you share what you have learnt back home?

RG: We have a blog http://www.nawoyouth2013.blogspot.co.uk which we blog

SM: We will speak at the schools in our area. It needs to be coming from us rather than the teacher as we can relate to our peers

Q7. What would you say to the young people in the Church of England about participating in the CSW?

SM: Get involved, ask questions and come as it’s a good experience  You have to make time for it. Don’t dismiss it thinking you don’t have time. It’s important. It’s good to see other young people here. Everyone has been so encouraging to us being here. People really appreciate our presence.

RG: If you get given the opportunity just do it! We need to get more young people here as there is not enough. Young people need to be engaged and actively involved. I got to see UN SG Ban Ki-moon and that was exciting and it highlighted to me how important this issue is. [SM interjects: Yeah she’s NOT stopped talking about it!]

Q8. What would you suggest to the Church of England about getting more young people involved in the CSW?

RG: We need the Church of England here as they have a vital role to play in ending violence against women and combine that with the expression of faith. It’s such an important issue.

SM: The Church of England has one of world’s biggest cases for being here with the message of ‘Love thy neighbour’. One of the things we have seen and heard here is that one of the main solutions is to involve religious leaders.

RG: The church is passionate and engaged and has a huge role to play both in relation to people who abuse and the survivors.

SM: There is a need to involve the Church of England young people because their voices are heard.

RG: We heard yesterday of a 16 year old girl who was sharing her family’s experience of child marriage. Her grandmother had been married at the age of 9, her mother had been married at the age of 16 and here she was at the CSW at 16 speaking out about ending child marriage. It was very powerful.

SM: We need more grassroots people here with experiences to share. It’s powerful.

My thanks to Ruby and Sorrel who gave their time this morning for this interview. My hope is their hope, that more young people engage, participate and learn more about the Commission on the Status of Women. They are not simply the next generation. It is our generation now. It is our world. We are all in this together.

Men at a Women’s Conference

There are a few of them. If you look carefully and closely enough. Scattered around the room was the lesser spotted male. Men at the Commission on the Status of Women, standing up and with women to prevent and end violence against women. I’d like to know how many of the 6,041 registered delegates are men. Now that is a statistic I’d like to see.

Today’s day of briefings for NGO’s had a host of panel discussions on issues such as trafficking of women and girls, engaging men and boys, and good practice in preventing violence against women. One of the presenters in the men and boys panel was Bafana Khumalo from Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa. He outlined 10 points required in engaging men and violence prevent and end violence against women. These are:

  1. Create and universally implement school curricula and education on gender equality and preventing gender based violence. This includes out of school youth.
  2. Scale up nation wide education on the laws on gender based violence so that people know and understand the law and their rights. Also education on patriarchy, the dangers of it and its harmful effects on men and women.
  3. Scale up bystander interventions. It is no longer acceptable to say this is not my business.
  4. Scale up high quality evidence of including men and boys in the response in ending gender based violence.
  5. Reach out to boys in the home who have suffered violence so that they don’t become violent in return from what they have seen and experienced.
  6. Look at the causal relationships between violence against women and alcohol consumption
  7. Restrict access to guns and small arms. This is critical in the fight to end violence against women. Bafana noted the recent high profile case of Oscar Pistorius at this point.
  8. Prevention programmes must be in tandem with women’s economic. empowerment programmes so that women’s agency is enhanced.
  9. Engage men as fathers and provide parent training. Men need to take responsibility and share of work in the home and care for children. Laws need to enable this to happen and support this.
  10. There is need for support on research and evaluation on integrated programmes  on what works.

I was interested to hear the point on alcohol. Bafana carefully worded his point so not to blame alcohol for violence and fuelling that particular myth but rather we need research on why alcohol seems to reduce ability to make good choices.

What was missing here was a focus on including faith leaders, as transformers of cultures, in the process of prevention. Sonke do have a programme of engaging faith leaders but this was not mentioned. Sonke run a campaign called ‘One Man Can’ that encourages men to live gender equal lives and prevent violence. See http://www.genderjustice.org.za for more info. Apologies that I’ve not learnt yet how to embed a link on IPad.

The organisation I Co-Direct, Restored, also has a campaign on engaging men called ‘First Man Standing’. This is in conjunction with Christian Vision for Men and asks men to respect all women, challenge other men’s attitudes and actions, and join in the cause of ending violence against women. Find out more at http://www.restoredrelationships.org/FirstManStanding

What do you think of Bafana’s  10 point plan? Would you add anything? Would you remove any?