EPPN Alert: Lent: – Violence Against Women
The season of Lent challenges Christians to repentance — a radical reordering of life — in order that we may more fully encounter God through worship and prayer; proclamation of the good news; and pursuit of justice, peace, and love toward our neighbors. Part of this process of repentance involves acknowledging our own habitual blindness to human suffering and need. On Ash Wednesday, we prayed:
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our indifference to injustice and cruelty.
Violence against women and girls is among our world’s most pervasive, and harmful forms of cruelty and human suffering. As Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her fellow Primates of the Anglican Communion acknowledged in a 2011 letter, violence against women is a global phenomenon with devastating effects on individuals, families, and society. It occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes.
Gender-based violence takes many forms, including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced child marriages, assault on the basis of sexual orientation, dowry crimes and honor killings, infanticide, and gender discrimination.
An estimated one in five women experiences rape or attempted rape and up to 70 percent of all women are believed to experience gender-based violence from men in their lifetime. Women in developing countries experience particularly high rates of violence, where cycles of poverty, hunger, and insecurity make them more vulnerable to violence and assault.
In Haiti, for example, more than 90 percent of women have suffered from some form of violence. In fact, gender-based violence is perhaps the most widespread and dangerous problem among Haiti’s makeshift “tent cities”, where hundreds of thousands of impoverished and internally displaced Haitians remain three years after the earthquake. Extreme poverty and lack of security allow violence against women to run rampant in these “tent cities.”
The cultural attitudes and stereotypes that perpetuate the cycles of gender-based violence shatter individuals, families, and society, impede the ability of women and girls to participate fully in and contribute to their communities, and ultimately separate us all from our relationship with God.
Last week, the U.S. Senate took an important stand against these pernicious, culturally-imbedded cycles of gender-based violence in this country by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (which expired last year). The reauthorization included important provisions to extend services to those in the United States who are most vulnerable to gender-based violence and exploitation, including victims of human trafficking and persons of minority sexual orientations, immigrant families, and native communities (where as many as three in five women experience assault in their lifetimes).
Lent is a fitting time for us to follow the Presiding Bishop’s lead by examining our underlying cultural attitudes toward violence—including violence against women—and confronting and working to dismantle the root causes of gender-based violence that claim so many lives and hold many more women, men, and children captive in their own homes or communities.
This Lent, let us resolve:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke (Isaiah 58:6)
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