Culture and religion


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Culture and religion

  1. 1. Culture and Religion 1 -1Running head: THE RELEVANCE OF CULTURE AND RELIGION The Relevance of Culture and Religion To the History of Violence Against Women Amanda Kitchen Women and Violence Argosy University, Tampa April 3, 2009 Abstract
  2. 2. Culture and Religion 2 This is a brief overview of literature contributing to the effects of culture and religion on violence against women. It emphasizes the study of three subsets of culture, including: Mexican women, Zambian women, and Rural Older women. It also explores religious causality as well as religious responsibility. The Relevance of Culture and Religion
  3. 3. Culture and Religion 3 To the History of Violence Against Women The United Nations General Assembly defines violence against women as “Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm, or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” (Kishor and Johnson, 2004) How violence is enacted, perceived or dealt with depends on many factors in a women’s life. For example, women who grow up in violent families are taught to perceive abuse as perhaps normal or acceptable. Some cultures deem violence against women to be necessary and tolerable. Certain religions believe that it is the women’s duty to be submissive to the authority of man. This literature review searches to explain the effects that particular cultures and religious structures have on the treatment of women. The comparison of these two factors emphasize the reality of the cruelty women have been facing for thousands of years simply because of their gender. Ethnicity and Culture Ethnicity and culture have a significant influence over societal rules regarding Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). In Western culture, IPV is considered illegal and unacceptable. That is why there are resources for victims of abuse such as shelters, group homes, and laws to protect women from their violent partners. There are however many countries around the world, and even seclude areas of the United States where women are not being protected because either their ethnic background provides a source of leniency towards perpetrators of domestic violence or they are located far from help. Three
  4. 4. Culture and Religion 4 examples of how culture and ethnicity play a role in violence against women are: Mexican Femicide, Intimate Partner Violence in Zambia, and The Spousal Abuse of Rural Aging Women. Mexican Femicide According to Juarez-Chihuahua (2008), femicide is defined as the murder of women by men. There has been an epidemic occurring in the border town of Juarez, Mexico since 1993, where more than 250 women have disappeared and 500 have been killed. Domestic violence was the cause of approximately two thirds of these murders. Young women between the ages of ten and thirty are kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered. Social, political, and economic conditions in Mexico have created an environment fostering violence against women for more than fourteen years. Several factors involving globalization that has occurred in Mexico contribute to the rise in violence. Among these factors are the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Invasions, the Drug Cartel, and most significantly shifts in gender roles. As for the last factor, many of the missing women and those known to be murder victims come from an emerging class of working women in Mexico. Earning income has helped these women break away from established roles and claim independence from men and their fathers. These newly empowered women pose a serious threat to patriarchy. Juarez- Chihuahua believes that the attempted destruction of working Mexican women indicated a rebellion by Mexican men reasserting their Machismo. Perverted and exaggerated male punishment of women is visible in various manifestations, including domestic violence and murder. (Fregoso, Mexican Encounters, 4-5 Intimate Partner Violence in Zambia
  5. 5. Culture and Religion 5 The abuse and violation of women has reached epidemic proportions in Africa and this behavior seems to be accepted as normal. (Fourie, 2004) In a recent study, three theories to explain the increasing violence in Zambia were developed based on the long running cultural standards its society. One, exchange theory, explains that an individual engages in a behavior either to earn rewards or to escape punishment. Every behavior is driven by a calculated examination of risks vs. rewards on any particular action. People use violence to maintain or advance their interests and therefore, men use violence for the same purpose in order to maintain their status in society. Another idea, is resource theory. In a relationship, the person who brings in the greatest number of resources is in possession of more power. The use of violence is further influenced by societal norms maintaining it s appropriateness as a method of sustaining power. (Jasinski, 2001) The last theory is about the implicit nature of abuse. According to Malley-Morisson (2004), when different people are asked for their definitions of abuse within the context of the family, their definitions will reflect their informal set of assumptions about who is abusive, why someone mistreats a family member, and what behaviors deserve the label abuse. The variation of implicit theories is a function of cultural heritage. It is culturally more acceptable in an area such as Zambia to beat your wife for refusing to have sex with you, burning your dinner, or neglecting the children. (Klomegah, 2008) Rural Aging Women Limited age-aggregated data available suggests that there are a significant number of midlife and older women who experience domestic violence. The 1992 National Survey of Women indicated that 1.4 million women between the ages of 45 and 64 were physically abused by their spouses. Many aging women living with violence are often
  6. 6. Culture and Religion 6 invisible in rural communities where geographic isolation, economic constraint, strong social and cultural pressures, and lack of available services significantly compound the problems they may confront when seeking support and services to end violence. (Dugar, Roberto & Teaster, 2006) Aging women face unique personal and family issues and community obstacles that can influence their decision to leave an abusive relationship. These women may be dependant on their partner for physical care or their partner may be dependant on them. Aging women may have limited housing and employment opportunities in the event that they do choose to leave. They may also encounter ageism from law enforcement, courts, and others. Furthermore, the structure and culture of rural environments may inadvertently conceal violence against aging women and inhibit prevention and treatment. In small, close knit rural communities, victims and perpetrators of abuse are often involved in family or other relationships with health care providers who would be responding to any call for help. Rural women who are victimized are significantly more likely to report that they knew the perpetrator than their urban counterparts. (Dugar et al, 2006) Religion Religious affiliation has a way of soothing people. It makes a person feel of faith feel that they are a part of something, that they are on the right path. According to most religious standards, the congregations should consist of those with the deepest values and most sincere code of ethics. However this isn’t always the case, and more often than not the church is not the safe haven people assume it to be. Man religious leaders of all faith prefer to assume that there is no violence among the members of their various churches.
  7. 7. Culture and Religion 7 However, researchers have developed certain theories of theological reasoning as to why spousal abuse occurs. What are the methods of dealing with abusers in the congregation, and what are the clergy’s responsibility to this violence? Theological Reasoning Violence against women is a disturbing reality that demands a response to two theological questions: How could such terrible violence against women happen? And why does it continue undeterred for century upon century? The mutilated and dismembered bodies of women militate against the honor of their creator. Desecration of the body is the ultimate disregard for human dignity that God had endowed upon these women. The extreme violence, rape, and murder of women is a revolt against the God who wholly loves and cherishes their bodies and souls.(Luevano, 2006) It is hard to imagine that a just and all loving God would let such human torture exist. This is the question that makes it impossible for followers of the church to believe the victims. Many faithful blame the victim, and believe they must have sinned in some grave way and deserve punishment, or that they drove their loving husband to hurt them. Abusers in the Congregation Family violence, spousal abuse, and dating abuse is present in faith communities. In a study of 854 female victims of abuse, it was found that 50% attended church several times a month. Churches often ignore the issue of family violence, wanting to believe that families of faith are happy and wholesome. Furthermore, many people blame domestic violence on circumstances beyond the abuser’s control and may even blame the victim’s for being abused, thus limiting their self determination and options for seeking help. (Homiak & Singletary, 2007) It seems that having a religious affiliation often leaves
  8. 8. Culture and Religion 8 victims feeling isolated rather than protected. Many members of the church are in such deep denial of violence in their mist, that the victims are left with no one to turn to. Women and children who sought help because of family violence rated clergy as the least effective caregivers. They claimed clergy did not take them seriously, disbelieved their claims of violence, and sent them home to pray. (Homiak & Singletary, 2007) Clergy Responsibility Many victims of abuse attend church and seek ministerial help. Clergy often establish trust and credibility with couples during premarital counseling; thus, couples may naturally return to their pastor or the like for counseling when the marriage is in crisis. However clergy often feel ill-equipped to respond to domestic violence. When Miles (2008), interviewed 158 clergy from various theological worldviews, all reported that they condemned violence against women. At the same time, more than 50% of these clergy believed domestic violence was not an issue in their personal congregation. Staff in churches recognize the need for clergy to respond effectively to domestic violence. Churches often offer grace to hurting people, but do not provide a safe place for people to struggle with their abuse or pain openly. Some clergy hold tightly to the notion that family problems can be solved by prayer or by greater female submission. As a result these clergy tend to encourage women to stay in an abusive relationship and avoid divorce at all costs. Overall faith communities have valuable resources for addressing domestic violence and generally are a trusted place where victims of abuse seek haven. However because clergy are ill equipped and tend to favor staying in the marriage or ignoring family violence, many victims do not receive adequate assistance. (Homiak & Singletary, 2007)
  9. 9. Culture and Religion 9 Overall women are subject to the environment that surrounds them. Some are lucky to be in a community where they are told to empower themselves to fight against violence. Others are culturally conditioned to accept abuse in their daily lives. It is the responsibility of all women to educate and reach out to victims of violence. We need to overcome ignorance about acceptable social norms that incorporate hurt, mental repercussions, and sometimes death.
  10. 10. Culture and Religion 10 References Dugar,T.A.& Roberto, K.A.& Teaster, P.B. (2006) Intimate partner violence of rural aging women. Family Relations (55) 636-648 Fourie, Ronel. (2004). “South Africa.” Pp 243-261 in International Perspectives on Family Violence and Abuse. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Homiak, K.B.& Singletary, J.E. (2007) Family violence in congregations: an exploratory study of clergy’s needs. Social Work & Christianity. (34) 18-46 Jasinski, Janal. (2001) Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden on Disease. Geneva World Health Organization, 2002. HWO document. Kishor, Sunita & Kiersten, Johnson. (2004). Profiling Domestic Violence: A Multi- Country Study. Calverton, MD. ORC Macro. Klomegah, R.Y. (2007) Intimate partner violence in zambia: an examination of risk factors and gender perceptions. Department of Sociology. Fayetteville State University, 1200 Murchison Road, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 28301, USA. Lue’vano, R. (2008) A living call: the theological challenge of the Juarez-Chihuahua femicides. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.(24.2) 67-76 Malley-Morrison, Kathleen.(2004). International Perspectives on Family Violence: A Multi-Country Study. e: A Calverton, MD: ORC Macro.