Relationships Key to Curbing Gender Violence: WCC Head

Sentia Fabien, 10, washes laundry outside her family's tent in a displaced person's camp in the Belair section of Port-au-Prince. (Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

The head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has encouraged people to reflect on how they might give the bread of relationship rather than the heavy stones of violence to both victims and perpetrators of violence, particularly violence against women.

"We cannot remain silent about this reality but we need to bear witness to what 'being one' can do to help transform relationships between men and women," Tveit said at a service at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. "This is quite obviously a particular responsibility of men. Here we have to be quite clear. Therefore, if we do not address this message to men and work together as men and women, there will be no transformation."

Quoting from the Norwegian Joint Muslim Christian statement "Say No to Violence" issued last November, Tveit added: "As Christians and Muslims we see women and men as equal and nobody has the right to use violence against the other. Violence in the family and in close relationships are criminal acts and against the convictions of our beliefs. We believe that there is inspiration and guidance in our religions for life in love and mutual respect."

Tveit's message comes at the launch of a Lenten study series on gender violence from the WCC entitled "Cries of Anguish; Stories of Hope."

The series features a weekly video and resources detailing instances of gender-based violence around the globe.

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), six out of every ten women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

A World Health Organization study of 24,000 women in 10 countries found that the prevalence of physical or sexual violence by a partner varied from 15 percent in urban Japan to 71 percent in rural Ethiopia, with most areas being in the 30–60 percent range.

Earlier this month, the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) - a bill that will make addressing violence against women a "strategic foreign policy imperative" - was reintroduced to the United States Congress, receiving a rare level of bipartisan support.

The bill is being endorsed by several women's and human rights groups including UNIFEM, Amnesty International, Women Thrive Worldwide and Family Violence Prevention Fund.

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