What role religion can play in helping to curb GBV scourge

As we edge closer to the end of Women’s Month, the country is still grappling with the escalation in gender-based violence (GBV).

Could the answer to GBV be a divine intervention?

Chairperson of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, Dr Nontando Hadebe, whose focus is on the marginalisation of women in culture and religion, said: “Religion plays a role in the continuation of GBV through traditional teachings about women in the Bible, leaving them feeling like they are subordinate to men."

Hadebe is referring to the second creation story that says a woman was created from a man’s rib, giving rise to the narrative that women are inferior to men and must be submissive.

“These teachings are disempowering to women because they feel inferior and weak. Some of these religious narratives that have been imposed on women are the root cause in them staying in abusive relationships as they believe they are obeying God.”

Hadebe believes that scripture can serve as the point of reference in the eradication of violence against women.

“Looking at the same scriptures, we find that women were designed to be equal and they enjoy the same kind of standing before God as men. No human being was ever created to be abused or to be dehumanised. We believe that women are precious and therefore abuse of women using the Bible is something that we need to resist.”

The first step in the healing process for a victim of violence is knowing that God is not punishing them.

Hadebe believes that the recovery of the victim will require a multi-disciplinary process that firstly deals with the fundamental beliefs of shame and self-blame.

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Through prayer and working together with community groups, theology and medical professionals, Hadebe believes we can help to affirm and re-build the dignity of the victim.

Hadebe believes that we need to address the accused as victims as well.

“We need to look at the perpetrator through the eyes of them being wounded and that they are acting out of pain.”

Hadebe believes in the redemption for the accused, however, this in no way condones the act of violence and that there should be accountability.

“Psalm 51 was written by King David when he had violated Bathsheba and had her husband killed. It came from a very violent space.”

Perpetrators need to come to the place of acknowledging that the abuse of woman is a sin against God and should be held accountable.

“Domestic violence is a crime, but deeper than that it is a sin against God because women are created in the image of God and we need to give it the seriousness it deserves. We must work with perpetrators and give them an alternative avenue for them to speak on what is going on in their lives.”

Hadebe believes that true justice begins in the home in ways that are non-violent. Regarding a God intervention, Hadebe believes that God intervenes through people.

“Violence starts with the negative and demeaning attitude that we have towards women and we need to stop that. Each and every one of us as individuals and as a community need to come together. This is a human problem and can be solved by human beings.”

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