• August 5th, 2020

Opinion: Churches - Take responsibility for Gender Based Violence

Constance Muparadzi

 “Men who are much more religious than their partners are especially likely to perpetrate domestic violence (Simister & Kowalewska)”

I am running out of time, I guess. It is the end of the year. Everyone is trying to wrap up the work before dashing out for the Christmas holiday. Though many of us are exhausted, the excitement is over the moon, I can say.  I have been thinking I still have more time before I wrap up to reach out to one of the survivors.

It is already time for 16 days of activism. We are now on that time of reflecting. It has been some years now when I look back the lane of tackling gender-based violence. It has become three years when an article, entitled ‘Is divorce evil in the eyes of the church’, was published. After meeting a young lady who was going through abuse, it has become clear that abuse can happen to anyone regardless their status.

The case of a lady called Beauty in that article is not an exception for most women who are struggling to leave abusive relationships. Today, I am doing a follow up on Beauty. It is just a phone call away from the office where she runs her business. She could not believe how many years have passed by since the first meeting after we published the article. A lot of changes happened in her life, but she could not hide her worry on the issue of gender-based violence, which seems to be on the increase. According to Beauty, being young and not having people to guide you is a big challenge when you are married. “You need people who tell you the truth about abuse in marriage. Many of us lie to each other and comfort each other that the abuser will change. Something bad could have happened the time I was in that abusive marriage.

Some people have been telling me to stay in that abusive relationship and not to divorce. All my relatives were against my divorce, starting with my parents. It was an outcast for the family. That is the only advice people can give. You start to wonder if there is anyone who is being abused until it is too late to help someone who, for years, has kept a secret of abuse. People should know that I am a Christian, but I had so many problems as a human being. I suffered a lot until I decided to change my life. Remember, leaving an abusing husband does not prevent you to continue being a Christian,” narrated Beauty.

“Men who are much more religious than their partners are especially likely to perpetrate domestic violence” (Simister & Kowalewska). Cases of women who struggle not to divorce due to stigmatisation are alarming. Three years down the line, after Beauty’s visit, the number of survivors of gender-based violence is increasing. Many women have been murdered and some survived with severe injuries. 

“In any congregation, you hardly find someone approaching the church leader to talk about the abuse. Many of us are not willing to seek help. If the church does not talk about abuse, it is not easy for the congregation to share their problems too. People need encouragement; people need to be reminded about their behaviour,” explained Beauty.

The church might have its own code of conduct which is not written anyway but is known by the congregation. Sometimes, Christians can judge a person who has gone through abuse due to certain beliefs. For example, a Christian cannot move around exposing themselves or go out with friends and get drunk. If any type of abuse happens during that time, a Christian will be judged. Many people are afraid to be stigmatised by their own people, so they are unable to share their problems. 

Some church leaders who were interviewed in Mwinga’s (2012) study on ‘The role of churches in Namibia’s economic development’ mentioned that the resources for the church should be used only for preaching and teaching the Word of God and on issues related to social welfare. However, some church leaders urged that the duty of the church is to help its congregation on different issues regardless of its nature.

Some churches have enough resources to cater for its communities, such as crèches, which means they are able to provide certain services that are beneficial to their community. The church is very close to its people, as it is aware of the social and political issues. The church understands the behaviour of its members, making it easy for the church to assist its members to go through some programs concerning gender-based violence and to offer the necessary help.

It is estimated that more than 200 educational schools are owned by churches, from pre-primary to tertiary. 50 health centres are also owned by churches, including clinics, hospitals and health centres. Some of the churches own some of the biggest hospitals and are doing well in terms of providing health services to society. Some of the schools are performing well because of the nature of its leadership and administration that is being offered. Churches are also working towards making the lives of individuals better by doing humanitarian work through HIV/AIDS programs.

This entails that churches can help the society in different ways, such as building shelters for the abused and homes for disadvantaged children. Churches can also offer training services to their church leaders and the whole team of the clergy to offer counselling services to the congregation. 

Regain Trust empowers survivors of gender-based violence through psychological therapy sessions – one-on-one and group sessions. The intervention process helps and empowers survivors to open up and speak out about their experiences. Awareness campaigns are done through public dialogues, media campaigns and trainings. The organisation advocates for a holistic approach to address GBV.

Regain Trust and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), with the co-funding from the European Union, are implementing a project that will contribute towards national efforts to address gender-based violence and learner pregnancy in the Khomas, Erongo and Northern regions. The project, Survivors Speak Up! seeks to increase and enhance the delivery of prevention, psychosocial, health, legal and protection services to reduce the prevalence of GBV & LP. 

Look for the upcoming events on our website and Facebook page. If you need help, reach out to REGAIN and call 0817033 203. 

Staff Reporter
2019-11-29 08:46:11 | 8 months ago

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