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Elimination of violence against women and the Tai Ji Men case

Webinar organized on 23 November 2021: Contribution of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (29.11.2021) – There is no country in the world where women are free from gender-based violence; a World Health Organisation survey found that one in three women worldwide have suffered from some form of violence against women. However, the full extent to which women experience gender-based violence is often difficult to determine since it typically happens in private settings and frequently goes unreported.

Three years ago, we published a report on Women’s Rights and Religion which addressed a number of forms of violence such as domestic violence against women, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, ‘honour’ killing and femicide in general. From these various angles, the report explored the ways in which the interpretations of Christian, Muslim and Jewish doctrines, the religious practices resulting from their teachings, cultural influences, and patriarchal systems influenced, motivated or justified such violence.

We focused on Abrahamic religions which, as organized systems, have always been led by men and have perpetuated a patriarchal culture that can be questioned in the light of the current human rights culture. Women have the right to gender equality, respect of their physical and psychological integrity and dignity.

An increasing number of women reject the dominance of men and patriarchal social systems over their persons.

In the aftermath of our report, we systematically collected cases of violence against women and created a database of incidents per country and per topic on our website https://hrwf.eu

In the light of our data collection, we have conceptualized and analyzed various forms of violence. In short, a few examples.

Domestic violence against women means physical, including sexual, violence that usually occurs in the home by a male member of the family against women or children, this could be from a father, brother, or other male. Intimate partner violence is the “most common type of violence experienced by women” and falls under this category but is specifically defined as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.”

As specified by the World Health Organisation, factors that are associated with sexual violence and violence amongst partners include the existence of attitudes that are accepting gender inequality, beliefs in family honour and sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement, and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

In 2020, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) noted a troubling rise in domestic violence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and self-isolation guidelines in many countries. Recently, OSCE leaders called for measures to be taken by governments to protect women and children. They said that unfortunately for them home is not always a safe haven, as they are the most susceptible to abuse. Therefore, they need increased protection from abusers in these exceptional times.

‘Honour’ based violence includes “attempted murder, driving to suicide, rape, gang rape, torture, assault, virginity testing, kidnapping, forced marriage, forced eviction, harassment, threats, mutilations, stove burnings, acid attacks and maiming.”

Victims of ‘honour’ based violence are perceived by the perpetrator to have violated the social contract of how females should behave. They may have refused an arranged marriage, had a relationship outside of their group or community, lost their virginity, become pregnant (even in cases of rape), or have been engaged in some other behaviour that is seen as crossing the line. Violence is then inflicted upon the person to restore the lost ‘honour’ and to control their behaviour, their sexuality, dress, communications with the opposite sex, relationships, etc.

‘Honour’ killing is the most extreme form of gender-based violence. ‘Honour’ killing is usually committed by the victims’ family or community to restore ‘honour’ upon the perpetrator (or alleged perpetrator) of an act that they feel has brought shame upon them.

According to UN estimates, five thousand women are victims of ‘honour’ killings annually. However, the often private nature of ‘honour’ killings results in underreporting – some civil society actors estimate that there may be up to 20,000 ‘honour’ killings per year globally.

Although religion cannot be deemed the root cause of all ‘honour’ killings or violence, research indicates that there is a relationship between religion , culture, and the paramount importance placed on honour.

There are cases of murder, honour, and patriarchy in the Old Testament of the Bible, Torah, and the Qur’an that, when interpreted literally, may perpetuate a culture of ‘honour’ based violence.

In the UK, a recent report on “honour-based” abuse offences recorded by English police forces reveals that their number has soared by 81% over the past five years.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/c) is a form of gender-based violence, sexual discrimination and a serious health issue. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), FGM/c is found worldwide, with an estimated 200 million or more girls and women having been cut.

FGM/c is most prevalent in Africa but is also common in the Arabian Peninsula and Asia. Cases of FGM/c have also been reported in immigrant communities in North America and Europe. Girls who are the most at risk are generally between the ages of zero to fifteen and are part of a community or culture that supports the harmful practice. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice, according to data from 30 countries where population data exist. The practice is mainly concentrated in the Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, in some countries the Middle East and Asia, as well as among migrants from these areas. 

In 2020-2021, we mainly collected cases of FGM in African countries: Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda. But through immigration from those countries, EU countries, the UK and the USA are now also concerned by the phenomenon.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a lot remains to be done to protect women and girls from all forms of physical and psychological gender-based violence, in particular – but not only – when it is justified by religion, culture and tradition.

In the Tai Ji Men community, many dizi are young women and a number of them are still in search of an engagement. Defending women’s rights and gender equality is a noble mission in which they can invest their time and their energy to put into practice the spiritual teachings and training they have received from Dr Hong.

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