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Christian women face double abuse, report says

06 March 2020

OPEN DOORS

The cover image from the report

The cover image from the report

CHRISTIAN women face “double vulnerability” in many countries because of their gender and their faith, a new report says.

The Hidden Face of Persecution: The targeted abuse of Christian women worldwide was published on Friday by Open Doors UK and Ireland. It draws on data that were gathered from 50 countries for its World Watch List (WWL) 2020, of incidents of persecution that took place between 1 November 2018 and 31 October 2019.

The report states: “Even when the situation is difficult for all members of a given Christian community, the situation of women is often worse because of their additional gender-based vulnerabilities.”

Christian women are especially vulnerable to sexual violence, the report says. The proportion of countries “reporting sexual violence as a specific means of targeting Christian women” was “significantly higher” in the WWL 2020 figures, compared with the 2019 figures.

“The 2020 data reveals that the combined Pressure Point of sexual violence and rape affected women in 84 per cent of the top 50 countries, of which 60 per cent explicitly reported rape as characteristic of a Christian woman or girl’s experience of persecution.”

The report say that the “use of gender injustice as a means of religious persecution is highly effective because gender injustice has been normalised by the surrounding society and, in some cases, assimilated by the religious community being targeted”.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, said: “This report confirms what I discovered in compiling my independent review on Christian Persecution for the Foreign Office (News, 30 August 2019). It clearly shows that the forms religious persecution take are specific to the gender of the targeted victims — so often women. This is a vital piece of research and it offers an important challenge both to the Global Church and to governments to advocate and act to see an end to this grave injustice.”

The Advocacy Policy Officer at Open Doors, Dr Matthew Rees, said: “Both the Department for International Development [DfID] and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office must do more to recognise the specific and hidden vulnerabilities of women from minority religious communities and provide tailored and added support through targeted programming. What’s more, DfID should ensure that religion is recognised as a factor of vulnerability in any assessment made in its planning and programming.”

The report is at opendoorsuk.org

Read comment on the story from Elaine Storkey

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