Celebrating women – then why all the suffering?

March 8 is International Women’s day. The UN has declared an International Women’s Day theme for 2013 “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. A World Health Organisation on women’s health and domestic violence against women in 10 mainly developing countries found that, among women aged 15-49:

  • between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime;
  • between 0.3–11.5% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by a non-partner since the age of 15 years;
  • the first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced – 17% in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh.

Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against girls and women. Child sexual abuse affects boys and girls. International studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being victims of sexual violence as children.

The recent reported cases of rape in India, and of violence against women associated with the revolution in Egypt have highlighted the deep structural issues in so many countries that allow violence to be perpetrated against women with impunity. Culture and tradition, poverty and unemployment, forced marriages, religious biases are just some of the factors affecting the status of women and their vulnerability to violence.

The crowds brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery (but where was the man who was caught with her). While they wanted to test Jesus and find a basis for accusing him, the found it acceptable to use a woman, an act of violence against her, to make their point. Jesus response challenges traditional concepts of sin and justice, offers the woman hope and dignity, and calls her to new life in relationship with Him.

On this International Women’s day, we celebrate women around our world as those created in God’s image and pray for those whose lives continue to suffer discrimination, abuse and violence, loss of dignity and identity.

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