Elimination Of Violence Against Women

Each year, the United Nations designates November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explains,

Violence against women and girls takes many forms and is widespread throughout the globe. It includes rape, domestic violence, harassment at work, abuse in school, female genital mutilation, and sexual violence in armed conflicts. It is predominantly inflicted by men. Whether in developing or developed countries, the pervasiveness of this violence should shock us all. Violence–and in many cases the mere threat of it–is one of the most significant barriers to women’s full equality.

The Bible teaches us that because of sin, suffering and violence entered the world. One expression of sin which is seen throughout Scripture and human history is the pervasive male domination of and violence against women. Here are some of the numerous ways that women around the world continue to experience violence and oppression.

Domestic violence

Women and children are the predominant victims of domestic violence, which is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior—physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal—used by one individual to maintain power and control over a partner in an intimate relationship. In the United States, every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Nearly 33% of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority. Sexual assault affects millions of women, men, and children worldwide: One in four women and one in six men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes. Most victims of sexual assault are female, and those responsible for sexual assaults are predominantly male and usually someone the victim knows.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. It is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or taking of people by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them. Victims of trafficking are forced into labor or sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves many kinds of sexual exploitation such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. The U.S. State Department estimates there are about 12.3 million adults and children “in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world.”

Rape in warfare

There is a long history of rape being used in war as an effective weapon to create fear, shame, and demoralization among the victims and their communities. During war, women and girls have been systematically beaten, raped, and mutilated, often in front of family, as part of a strategy to exert dominance and bring about cultural and ethnic devastation. Rape in warfare is used as a reward and morale-booster for soldiers and also as punishment for civilian communities who resist armed aggressors.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a traditional ritual practiced in some regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The term refers to procedures involving removal of the external female genitalia or other cutting of the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. There are many negative health consequences including pain, infections, and difficulty with urination, sexual activity, and childbearing. An estimated 140 million women and girls have undergone the procedure, and an estimated 3 million girls will experience it every year.

Girl soldiers

Today, as many as 300,000 children, some as young as eight years old, serve in armed government or rebel forces around the world. Child soldiers have been reported in many regions, but they are most prevalent in Africa. Children are either forcibly recruited or “volunteer” out of threat, desperation, and lack of alternatives. Child soldiers are sometimes forced to commit atrocities against their own family or neighbors to make sure they can never return to their community. About thirty percent of child soldiers are estimated to be girls. In addition to being involved in combat, girl soldiers are frequently subjected to rape and sexual violence, or given to military commanders as “wives.”

Jesus cares for the oppressed

Male domination over and exploitation of women, in any form, should be resisted because it is evil. God calls his people to stand with the vulnerable and powerless and to resist those who use their power to oppress and harm others. While this is taught throughout the Bible, we see it most clearly in the ministry of Jesus, who gave special care to women and children.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and declared that these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in him:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:17

In making this declaration and in his ministry Jesus showed that bringing freedom for captives and relief to the poor and oppressed is at the very center of his mission. His ultimate act of liberation was his sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection, which set his people free from slavery to sin and death. Yet his teaching and his example show us that the good news of Christ’s saving work should be accompanied by tangible love, service, and mercy toward our neighbors if the gospel message is to be recognized in its full power.