GAINS in gender equality risk being “jeopardised unless we do more to tackle all forms of violence against women”, a new Christian Aid report says.
The report, War on Women, published this week, argues that global gender inequality is “exacerbated by the prevalence of all forms of violence against women and girls, including forced abortions, rape, female genital mutilation, and femicide”.
The report gives the example of women in Afghanistan who face extreme poverty and ongoing conflict. Its authors, Chine McDonald, Marianna Leite, Nadia Saracini, and Karol Balfe, write that a lack of security has an impact on women “by preventing their access to essential services or reinforcing social norms that severely restrict their freedom of movement outside the home.
“Progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan is . . . hampered by conflict, the resurgence of extremism, conservative social norms, and economic collapse.”
The report recommends that the UK “should use its aid budget and diplomatic influence” to “ensure that women’s rights defenders are supported and given platforms to make their voices heard”; “invest in organisations and interventions that have a proven track record of protecting women and girls from gender based violence”; “safeguard gains for women and girls, in any peace deal brokered in the country”; and push for any peace process to include women meaningfully.
The chief executive of Christian Aid, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said: “The stark fact is that violence against women and girls is increased in conflict settings such as Afghanistan.
“There, and around the world, the eradication of gender-based violence is a major and urgent challenge of our time; there is a growing recognition that violence against women cannot be tackled unless the systemic inequalities which keep women vulnerable are also recognised and work is done to reduce those inequalities.”
The report turns to the part played by faith groups in violence against women: “As a faith-based organisation, Christian Aid is acutely aware that religious institutions are among those that have shaped patriarchal structures, gender norms, and contributed to power imbalances. We recognise the disservice this has been to women and girls through the centuries. . .
“We are committed to calling on faith actors to promote more progressive gender norms, challenge harmful practices, amplify the voices of historically marginalised women and girls, such as black, indigenous and Dalit women and girls, and address their multiple inequalities.”
In Brazil, a Christian Aid partner, the Anglican Service for Diakonia and Development, “developed a course for churches, which addresses what makes violence possible and the stigma associated with it for sufferers”.
The report concludes: “Violence against women and girls is a scourge on humanity. Every woman — just as every person of every gender — is made in the image of God and therefore is worthy of inherent dignity and respect.
“Any violence is contrary to this and shames us all. As people of faith striving for the dignity, equality and justice of all, we find the prevalence of such violence abhorrent. We must all work tirelessly to end it.”
The first of the report’s recommendations is that all governments should push forward with the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and that this should be properly funded: “Governments should give renewed emphasis to the implementation of the CEDAW for women and girls everywhere”.
Second, it is argued that “the UK Government needs to make a choice to change the trajectory towards peace”, as “violence against women and girls increases in conflict settings, with the poorest and most marginalised women and girls suffering the most”.
The authors write that the Government should: “Prioritise structural or longer-term approaches to preventing armed conflict that address the underlying causes of war and violence. It should aim to bring about a reduction in the potential for armed or political violence over time and promote non-violent means to address acute need and rights entitlements.”
Finally, the report urges faith actors to take responsibility for ending violence against women: “Our work in engaging churches in the UK and beyond, as well as working with faith leaders in the communities in which we work, gives us hope for the impact that can be made by faith actors in ending violence against women and girls.”