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Women, Religion, and Violence

27-122 | Thursday, 9 a.m. | 136
Panel Chair: Morny Joy

In the recent past there have been many books published on violence and religion but there have been only a few volumes that have dealt with the question of women in relation to religiously motivated violence or condoned violence (through lack of active intervention). Yet the incidence of such violence against women continues unabated. In this panel the presenters will variously address this issue, examining a number of examples from different religious and geographical contexts. The aim is to better understand the role religion has played in specific instances. Insights thus gleaned may help not only to understand the dynamics involved but also initiate more concerted effort in attempts to mitigate its occurrence.

Nina Hoel

Interrogating an Islamic Body Politics: South African Muslim Women’s Narratives on Sexual Violence

Feminist activists and theorists’ focus on body politics continues to be vital as we try to navigate critically through the enduring androcentrism and heterosexism that mark our contemporary realities. The entanglements of these discourses with the classic dichotomies of nature/culture and public/private, so prevalent in a variety of cultural and religious contexts, call for feminist inventiveness and thorough reconceptualization on the nature of being human. However, in feminist engagements with body politics, seemingly scant attention is paid to the influence of religious discourses on women’s sexual and reproductive decision-making. Hence, in this paper, I foreground the functioning of an Islamic body politics that importantly inform Muslim women’s understandings of sex, gender and reproductive bodies, and probe the extent to which religious norms and beliefs are intricately interwoven in a selection of South African Muslim women’s narratives on sexual violence.

Birgit Heller

The Female Body Between Boundary Mark and Border Transgression

This lecture focuses on the female body and is based on the fact that woman and body are identified in many cultures. Gender roles are the most basic building blocks of the social and religious order. Identifying woman, body, sex, weakness, irrationality and decay allows for specific roles, tasks and behaviours to be expected from women. The female body functions as locus where the borders of society and its normative orders are demonstrated and controlled. Particularly in times of social stress and instability, the insistence on traditional gender roles is reinforced. Fundamentalistic movements, for example, try to preserve the world order by regulating the appearance of the female body with dress codes – using force if necessary. Regarding the recent phenomenon of rape in India, it may be interpreted in the frame of a traditional gender ideology providing the basis for a woman and body contesting destruction.

Chikas Danfulani

“Suffer not the witch to live.” Extended Family Violence against Women: Some Selected Cases from Jos, Nigeria

Studies on domestic violence against women have often focused on husbands as culprits. Another dimension which has been given less attention is the role of in-laws in initiating or aggravating violence against women. This paper relies on data from four biographic interviews with women in Jos, who have experienced such violence due to their husband’s continued love for them during some family misfortunes. This worsens upon their husband´s death as they are accused of killing their husbands. The paper reveals the role that religion, in form of witchcraft accusations, plays in issues of violence against women. It further shows how domestic violence against women is carried out not only by intimate partners but by extended family members who use a witchcraft accusation as a powerful weapon. The paper adds to the general debate on violence against women as viewed and interpreted in certain cultural contexts especially where religion has considerable influence.

Carola Roloff

Violence against Women from a Buddhist perspective

Non-violence is one of the two main pillars of Buddhism, but even in Buddhism in the West there is gender discrimination. Discrimination of women violates this basic Buddhist principle and is not compatible with values common in contemporary societies. The authoritative religious texts are ambivalent. Yet one can be excluded if one does not follow the norm. How can women reach their goals, if those who are in power in religions refuse to discuss such matters? In this paper, using examples from the ancient history of Buddhism as well as the intra-Buddhist and interreligious dialogue during the last 30 years, I want to discuss different possible strategies. My intention is to develop more intensive interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of gender and religion. In order to develop more effective strategies I encourage experts with religious and/or secular backgrounds to respond with their feedback, exchange or advice.