GENDER-BASED violence and deaths linked to domestic abuse have become too common in society, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, said on Wednesday. She was speaking in support of the Mothers’ Union’s “16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence: global”, launched on Tuesday.
The Mothers’ Union (MU) campaign, which began on Wednesday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, seeks to draw attention to and call on governments to act on the fact that one in three women and girls worldwide have experienced physical or sexual abuse, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
Supporters, including the MU’s four million members in 83 countries, are encouraged to join online protests and share online videos and photos of themselves with a red cross drawn on their mouths in lipstick, and displaying the messages #NoMore1in3 and #1in3NotMe.
Bishop Treweek endorsed the campaign. “Domestic abuse is a key social issue today, which has become all the more apparent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown, which has resulted in a surge of calls to helplines and in reported deaths linked to domestic abuse. I fully support the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, which aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse here in the UK and drive change across our world in which gender-based violence is far too prevalent.”
The 16-day period, which ends on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, includes a focused day of action on Saturday 5 December, to coincide with the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill through Parliament. The Union has been working with domestic-violence charities and faith groups to lobby for the Bill’s passage. If enacted, the legislation will ensure the establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and place a legal duty on local councils to provide secure homes for those fleeing violence and their children.
Bishop Treweek said that the Church of England needed to play more of a part in helping to end the abuse of women. “Alongside my female colleagues in the Lords Spiritual, we have been preparing for the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Lords. Not only will we support the Bill, but also look to work with the Government to further strengthen it.
“In 2014, the General Synod passed a resolution pledging more action on gender-based violence, and, while we know that some positive action has been taken across dioceses, we still have a long way to go in truly living what the motion was seeking to enable.
“We need to constantly challenge the culture in which domestic abuse thrives, and recognise that many in our communities are affected by it, including women in our worshipping communities. We can all do more to help prevent and eliminate gender-based violence,” she said.
The chief executive of the MU, Bev Julien, said: “As a leading women’s organisation, Mothers’ Union believes that the high proportion of women experiencing abuse is unacceptable, and we are encouraging our members to hold peaceful protests and awareness-raising events on 5 December.”
The day includes an event, “No More One in Three Cup of Tea” at 11.30 a.m., and ends with a service at 8 p.m., which includes hymns, readings, reflections from across the world, prayers, and the lighting of candles.
The Archbishop of Canterbury posted on Twitter his support for the campaign, on Wednesday: “Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Gender-based violence is an affront to God, and we pray for all those affected. As Anglicans around the world, let us commit to ending violence against women in all its forms.”
The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, also on Twitter on Wednesday. “Really important to recognise how this intersects with FoRB [Freedom of Religion or Belief] issues. To safeguard minorities’ and women’s FoRB can be crucial to addressing gender-based violence.”
The MU’s Central Chaplain, the Bishop of Penrith, Dr Emma Ineson, said that the purpose of the activism was “to send out a strong message that the abuse of women and girls must end”.
In the House of Commons on Thursday, the Labour MP Fleur Anderson asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, what recent steps the Anglican Communion had taken to eliminate gender-based violence around the world.
Mr Selous replied: “The Anglican communion is supporting yesterday’s White Ribbon Day, the United Nations day for the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls, with 16 days of online panel discussions and social media campaigns to spot and eradicate gender-based violence. The resources are available in seven languages in over 165 countries, and this is as essential for economic development as it is for the promotion of fundamental human dignity.”
Ms Anderson then asked Mr Selous what steps the Anglican Communion was taking “to stop the dreadful stigmatisation of survivors of sexual violence in conflict and the important role that the Church can play around the world”.
Mr Selous replied: “The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this completely horrific practice. I can tell her that the Bishop of Gloucester has led discussions with Ministers about the role of faith communities, which are often the first point of call for people in need. Parishes are often willing to scale up support for people suffering from gender-based violence and domestic abuse.
“It is important that there is a level playing field for all providers of support and advice services, including church ones. That is what we are doing in the UK, but I take her point about the global nature of this issue and the important role that the Anglican communion has in engaging with it.”
Full resources including the service order can be found at mothersunion.org/16-days-activism-and-global-day-resources-2020.