What kills more women aged …

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What kills more women aged 15 – 44 each year than malaria, HIV, cancer, accidents and war combined? You guessed it – violence. I was therefore incensed when I read an article in The Press Christchurch today (6th March) which described the opposition by the Holy See (Pope), Iran and Russia to the notion that religion, culture and tradition must not be used as an excuse to support violence against women. They also opposed the notion of rape by a woman’s husband or partner. It is interesting that we outlawed the latter in New Zealand in 1985.

Daily in our papers we read about abuse by clergy, the rape and murder of women in India, the elimination of women’s rights in both Iran and Russia. I ask, who are these men (and I suspect it is men) to take a position on the human rights of women and children.

In today’s age the viewpoints expressed are sadly unbelievable. The rights of women subjugated to men who can hide behind a long lineage of patriarchal thinking and behaviour, is a sad indictment on contemporary debate. That debate is currently happening at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. So what is it that as men we have to fear from women?

Many years ago I used the analogy called ‘The boy in the sandpit’ in a book I wrote . What happens if that boy had the sandpit all to himself? What happens if others praise him for his behaviour of protecting his toys by frightening or bullying other children off? What would happen to that boy if he didn’t learn the skills of appreciating others and the art of sharing? It is easy to imagine the impact that this boy will have on others in the present and as he grows into the future. It is also easy to predict what an isolated life he is likely to have. Think of what this projectory might look like – multiple attempts at relationships, growing children who will have experienced a distant father, a range of coping strategies including violence, alcohol and drug use, or simple a depressed life. Imagine going through life not knowing the pleasure of being with others, sharing  hopes, dreams, resources and experiences, and having partnerships where we can truly be known.

But I don’t blame the boy in the sandpit – I blame the system that sets the boy up to know of no other way. We call that system patriarchy and it has a long tradition with a long tail. Of all the men I have worked with over the years, most don’t feel good being on the outside of relationships. Most don’t like what they have learnt about how men should behave. Most don’t want to hurt those closest to them. We are asking men to take a position of resistance against patriarchal beliefs that are evidenced in violence against women and children. At the end of the days many of these men have daughters of their own. How do they want their daughters to experience life?  And how do they want their daughters treated by men in they meet in their journey through life.

I wonder when the Holy See, along with Iranian and Russian government officials and representatives might see the wisdom of their ways. Or perhaps they are like the little boy in the sandpit and they normalised an unjust situation.

What are you doing to express your outrage at this situation?

Published on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013, under Family violence, What Ken thinks

One Response to “What kills more women aged …”

  1. Andrew Verdouw says:

    I am saddened to know that an organisation such as the Roman Catholic Church is willing to hold on to the prejudices of the past. Surely this is the time for them to lead. History tells us that they have been slow to respond to injustice, have rejected the discovery that the world is round or that gravity existed (until everyone else was convinced). This would indicate that they follow rather than lead. My message to the church is “stand up and lead”. Even Jesus was prepared to stand up against the dominate practices of his day to talk with, listen to, have friendships with, and value women. Surely a church that professes to uphold his values should stand up against violence and injustice against women.

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