14th February is associated with red roses, love hearts, and romance, together with the marketing of Valentine’s cards, and special romantic meals. The myth of romantic love continues unabated in 2018, and young folk follow this tradition because that’s what we’ve always done. Warm fuzzy feelings of romance and a perfect future abound; no-one enters into a long term intimate partnership expecting it to fail – but fail it frequently does.
1 in 4 women in the UK will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, and, yes, some women are violent, but not to the extent male violence dominates our culture, and, clearly, not all men are violent toward their parners.
The subjugation of women has been a dominant cultural theme throughout the world for millenia. In this month (February 2018) when we celebrate women over 30, and householders, winning their battle for the vote, we can see that women still have a long way to go to be treated as equals in our society. From equal pay, to equal responsibility for caring duties in families, women still need to campaign to have our human rights upheld and applied.
One place where this inequality continues is within faith communities. Yes, we now have female ministers, and rabbis, but the institutions continue to follow traditions, and teaching which often ignore women. Religious institutions seem to find it difficult to acknowledge the issue of male violence against women, while continuing to promote the sanctity of marriage.
In 2011 I was on Scottish Women’s Aid’s Faith Group Forum with women and men from a variety of Christian traditions, together with Muslims, Sikh’s and a representative from the Jewish community. We were all commited to tackling the issue of violence against women, and many of us were faced with our leadership not recognising it as a problem; many leaders were shocked that such a problem could exist within a community of faith. The outcome of our time together with staff from Scottish Women’s Aid was a pocket sized leaflet with 10 Things Faith Communities Can Do to Overcome Violence Against Women which was made freely available to all faith communities. They are no longer in print, so with permission from Scottish Women’s Aid, and with minor alterations I have reproduced it in A4 size.
Since 2012, 14th of February has been given over to One Billion Rising, the number of women the UN estimates have experience Gender Based Violence . Originally V-Day initiated in 1998 by Eve Ensler, the creator of The Vagina Monologues. On each 14th February she offers performances of The Vagina Monologues royalty free to those raising awareness of violence against women and girls. V-Day became absorbed into the international movement One Billion Rising in 2012, when women across the world were involved in performances of The Vagina Monologues together with Flash Mobs, and panel discussions raising awareness of intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, and child sexual exploitation.
This 14th February enjoy celebrating with your romantic partner, but also consider what you can do to erase violence against women and girls, and for those of us who belong to communities of faith, please bring 10 Things You Can Do To Stop Domestic Abuse to the attention of your community leaders, and consider following up some of the suggestions you can implement as an individual. Many of us raised in a faith community have fallen away from the institution but still carry with us the traditions instilled in us as children, and in the whirl of a new relationship these values can become our default positions. On 14th February give some time to examining these values, and consider if they match up to our Human Rights.