An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Sunday, 9 February 2014

General Synod Recognises Violence Against Women As a Serious Issue

AFFAIRS COUNCIL (GS 1933) 6 Presentation under SO 97.
  r Philip Fletcher (ex officio) (Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council)
to move:
7 ‘That this Synod, believing that all people are made in the image of God and
that all forms of violence based on gender represent a defilement of that
(a) affirm work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries, parishes and
Church of England schools in raising awareness and caring for
survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse communities;
(b) support measures to bring perpetrators to account and provide support
for changed lifestyles;
(c) encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based violence; and
(d) commend Anglican Consultative Council Resolution 15:7 on preventing
and eliminating gender-based violence to dioceses, deaneries and
parishes and urge them to seek practical approaches to its

General Synod will meet this week (10 to 13 Feb) in London and an item on the agenda for discussion on the first day is the report on violence against women. As a Christian Feminist it heartens me that this issue is being given prominence after all the accusations (quite understandably too) about the CoE not furthering the gender agenda.

The extract set out above seems to detail a determination on the part of the CoE to root out the violence and to deal with it by offering support to the victims and to, further, educate people on the seriousness of the situation. There is no mention of calling in the relevant authorities but I assume that the Church takes it as a given that violence against women is a criminal activity given this statement: 'The pastoral strand concerns the care of both survivors and perpetrators. For the latter this includes supporting measures to bring 
them to account and to work for a changed lifestyle'. 

The theological reasons for exploring gender violence are stated as being: ‘Christians are called by God to discern and to respond to, God’s mission of love to the world, the missio Dei. That activity of God, reconciling the world to God’s own self, generates in Jesus Christ, and through the Spirit, the vision of a world in which human beings live in harmony and love towards one another, respecting each other and supporting one another. Human behaviour which exploits or injures others creates a drag on the reconciliation of the world to God’s own self (2.Corinthians 5.19).’ 

The emphasis in bold is mine is because I believe that the sentence is the theological bridge between why anyone should do anything to help solve the problem of gender violence and why the church is taking action. Recognising that there is a greater societal cost and placing this within the context of religion is an important way forward in framing violence against women as something that harms everyone. This strand of thought is taken further in para 10 of the report: 'We are part of a culture which dehumanises and devalues many people. Gender-based violence does not happen in a vacuum but is part of an exploitative culture in which poverty, inequality, oppression, anxiety and fear all play their part.'

Integral to further exploring the reasons for violence is an appreciation, as one example, of how the austerity cuts has led to an increase in violence against women. When I was growing up in the Global South (decades ago) it was widely accepted and recognised (though no authority did anything about it) that domestic violence was far more prevalent among the very poor and would happen when the man of the house, who worked in a physically demanding job as a hard laborer all day, would indulge in home made alcohol in the evening and then take his frustrations out on his wife and daughters through beatings. Fast forward to modern times and it is being reported that there is a causal connection between the austerity cuts and a rise in domestic violence. No doubt the Right will jump in here and blame the individuals for their own actions. While everyone is responsible for their behaviour we do not live in unconnected world which is why I support Para 10 and the understanding it displays of a wider approach taken.

Prayers please for General Synod. 

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