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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

GBV & Religion: Warding away the ‘spirit of abuse’ in spouses with prayers

Kenyan women stand next to a banner as they attend a vigil for the victims of femicide in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo: EPA-EFE / DAI KUROKAWA) dailymaverick.co.za

“It doesn’t matter how rich or poor a person is, what gender or social class, or how much fame or education she possesses. Verbal, mental, and physical abuse can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what a woman’s ethnicity is because the only distinguishing colour of abuse is black-and-blue,”  La Toya Jackson

By: Mariatu Razak.

Sadia (not her real name), 25, suffered sexual abuse in June 2021. The perpetrated was her departmental head in one of Ghana’s public institutions in the Ashanti Regional capital Kumasi.

She was serving her mandatory six months national service as enshrined by Ghana’s Labour Act. She terms her days in the institution as “crazy.”

“My boss called me into his office one day when almost everyone had left. I thought he had extra work for me but he had a different plan altogether. He forced himself on me, I screamed till I couldn’t anymore, no one was there to save me,” she narrates.

But just like the average young woman in Ghana, Sadia’s ordeal has remained a secret until today.

“I couldn’t report to the Police or anyone because you know laws don’t work here. These laws work in your favour when you have money and it’s sad.”

Her fear was not just how frustrating the justice system grinds in gender-based violence but the lack of funds to keep the case running including transportation fare to and fro the police station.

A suburb of Kumasi, Ashanti Region, Ghana. Mariatu Razak.

The European Commission describes Gender-Based Violence as any violence directed against a person because of that person’s gender or, violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) affects both men and women including children. It has become a pervasive issue in Africa and other parts of the world as a whole.

But what role does faith play in GBV?

Women in faith-based groups like the church and mosques are expected to employ prayer to counter domestic violence in their homes. It is believed that “prayers change every situation” including taming abusive spouses.

Madam Charlotte has been in an abusive marriage for 11 years. Her weapon is prayer as divorce isn’t an option.

“Anytime my husband comes home, I feel really uncomfortable because he is quick-tempered and abuses me at the slightest mistake, I always wish he wasn’t around. I’ve complained to my Pastor and family and they all tell me to have patience,” she narrates.

Globally 84% of people identify as religious. Religiosity is highest in the world’s poorest countries.

Books of Az-Zumar and An-Nisa in the Qur’an shows clearly that “women can seek divorce if their marriage is an abusive one or if it isn’t favouring them.”

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 however asserts “… a wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried….”

Sheikh Foster Abdul-Maruf Ibrahim, an Islamic leader with the Al-Hameed Centre says Islam forbids violence against women.

“Surah An-Nisa Chapter 4 verse 19, states, “Under no circumstance is violence encouraged in Islam, O believers, and treat women with kindness even if you dislike them.” So this Surah tells us that Allah frowns on whoever abuses women in any way,” he said.

Evangelist Reynold Sarfo Moore of the Apostolic Church shares the same view as Sheikh Foster.

“The Bible in Psalm 11 and Proverbs 3&10 condemns all forms of violence and considers it an offence against God and humanity. The scripture is full of condemnations of violence- time and again violence is associated with wickedness and condemned as ‘detestable to the Lord.”

A 2011 report by Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service estimates that 3 out of 5 women suffer some form of violence, and 1 in 3 has experienced some form of assault during their life.”

But gender-based violence among partners is not only a feminine phenomenon globally. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International violence against women and children rather remains alarmingly high and widespread as compared to violence against men. That does not mean that men are not victims of domestic violence. Some men have also been known to be at the receiving end of violent attacks by women.

Scott (not his real name), 22, is in an abusive relationship for the past three years. His financial inability gives him no choice but to equally pray that the angels touch the heart of his girlfriend.

“She’s really been supportive but she slaps me occasionally and sometimes hit my head against the wall when I don’t do as she wishes,” Scot narrates while he trembles.

Scott however faces double the situation of Sadia and Charlotte. The African man must exhibit strength in the face of weakness and that makes it more difficult for any man in the same situation as Scott to open up.

“I can’t confide in anyone because they wouldn’t believe me and I’ll even feel shy to let someone know that I go through this.”

The urge to bring about gender equality continues to grow in Africa. The government of Ghana has also signed on to quite a number of international goals and conventions to enhance women’s rights in the country but until the government walks its talk, the phenomenon will surge.

Edited by Zubaida Mabuno Ismail.

This article was produced with the support of the Africa Women’s Journalism Project (AWJP) in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and through the support of the Ford Foundation.

www.zamireports.com | Kumasi | Ghana.

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