By Indhrannie Pillay
The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) hosted a report back, presentation and discussion on research addressing the impact of gender based violence on sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS through religion, culture and Human Rights, at Temple David in Overport in March this year.
In September 1999, the African Forum of Faith-Based Organisations(FBO) in Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS was formed. The forum was launched at the 11 th International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) in Africa. At the time, nine FBO's from six different African countries came together to form the forum. Currently, fifteen FBO's from eight countries on the continent make up the forum. The aim of the forum is to improve the ability and effectiveness of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV/AIDS services which FBO's provide to address the needs of the communities they serve.
Paddy Meskin, Chairperson of WCRP said, “Two years ago the various FBO's undertook this research to evaluate issues and put forward recommendations. We need to see how we can use these recommendations to put mechanisms in place to address the issue of gender based violence on SRH and HIV/AIDS.”
The research indicated the violation of women and violence against them. “We need to unpack violence. It is not just something that is physical. Violence is a violation of someone's basic human rights. Women are violated in many ways. They do not have access to health care, education and are treated as inferior to men,” Meskin added.
Many women continue to stay in abusive relationships because they are financially dependent on their partners. “Women need to be economically and socially able to empower and sustain themselves. Only empowerment can stop this cycle of violence, but together with empowerment, it is extremely important for men to also be part of the solution as well.”
We are living in a society were gender injustice is still very alive. Reverend Albert Chetty of the Essa Christian Areas Programme (ECAP) said, “There are many cultural influences which promote the superiority of the male figure and therefore add to the injustices against women. We as religious leaders have access to 90% of the worlds population and it is imperative that we use our power to guide and educate our people about gender discrimination.”
It was stressed that gender equality be included in the school curriculum so that from a young age the male child grows up with the concept of equality. It is also important that in the home parents treat both the male and female child equally with regard to chores and privileges. We live in a gender sensitive world and it is important that gender stereotypes are removed, so that both males and females can enjoy and celebrate their human rights.