ENDING violence against women is the theme of this year's United
Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). The Church of
England will be represented in New York to argue that faith groups
can play a vital part in fulfilling the goal.
Hundreds of delegates are expected to attend the 57th session of
the Commission, which takes place at the UN's headquarters from 4
to 15 March. Representing the Church of England will be Mandy
Marshall, co-founder of Restored, an international Christian
alliance to end violence against women. Earlier this month, she
said that her brief was "to promote the importance of using the
local church in addressing gender-based violence".
In consultation with the Mission and Public Affairs Committee of
the Church of England, ten "key messages" have been developed. The
first calls on governments to involve faith groups in tackling
violence against women, noting that "the church is often the point
in the community where survivors turn for help, and sometimes the
only community service available." The briefing also states that:
"The Church of England is committed to developing a culture of
openness in the churches to combat impunity, challenge stigma,
shame and silence around the issues of violence against women and
girls, recognising that violence against women and girls needs to
be addressed within the church."
On Wednesday, Ms Marshall said: "We need to create an
environment where women can come forward and disclose abuse, to be
dealt with appropriately, and recognise that we do have domestic
violence in our churches." A 2011 survey by the Evangelical
Alliance found that about one in ten of the 1219 respondents had at
least once suffered physical abuse or violence, and seven per cent
said that they had perpetrated it.
Draft agreed conclusions have been published by the Commission.
Ms Marshall said that the UK Government had been "working a lot
behind the scenes" to prevent a repeat of last year's meeting,
where no conclusions were agreed, after conservative groups came
together to block resolutions on sexual and reproductive
She will host two "side events" in New York, one with the
Anglican Communion, and another for Restored with the Mothers'
Union, called A Relationship-based Approach to Ending Violence
The UNCSW was founded in 1946 as a body "dedicated to ensuring
women's equality and to promoting women's rights". A report
prepared by the secretary-general of the UN in advance of next
month's meeting observes that "there has been very little work done
towards fulfilling the obligation of States in respect of
prevention". It also says: "Religious leaders, as well as faith
institutions, can play a crucial role in the prevention of violence
against women by interpreting religious texts and being conduits of
social norms and beliefs."
The Restored resource pack for churches is available at www.restoredrelationships.org/resources/info/51/
Inner motives. This month, in a debate in the House of
Lords on women's safety, the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern,
argued that the Government must engage with faith communities,
"which are particularly concerned with people's inner motives and
moral values". Better standards of behaviour would emerge "not just
from regulation and agencies but from moral conviction and the
culture of self-discipline that make adult people proper citizens,
and would be a major step in bringing this terrible problem under