Introduction: The KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) organised a workshop on ‘Theology on Violence, Abuse and Killing of Women’. This workshop was instigated by the spate of rape and killing of women during the months of June – July August 2017 in South Africa. It is observed that besides the current killing of women the question of abuse of women is conspicuous in South Africa. In other quotas it is said that South Africa has become the rape capital of the world.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal has its share of the abuse and killing of women. In the backdrop of our discussion was the situation we are trying to describe in this introductory paragraph. This workshop was attended by students and a lecturer from the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS), a contingency of ministers from the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (SKZNCC), ministers from the Midlands Christian Council (MCC), and the staff of KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC). We had an individual from Tromp Foundation, KRCC and Life and Resurrection.
Women Treated as Property: Though not all participants accede to the notion that women at one stage in human and Biblical history were treated as mere property by individuals, families, male counterparts and society, some hold to the view that women had always occupied a position of significance and recognition, in some cultures and societies.
Though women’s position of significance and recognition may not have been given the acknowledgement it deserved they were important players in those societies. The majority of the participants subscribe to the idea that women were not taken seriously in both human and Biblical histories till very late in the eighteenth century enlightenment and in modern times of the introduction of human rights. The view that culture and religious systems were instrumental in suppressing women to date seemed to be welcomed.
South Africa is a Violent Society: The participants made an observation that South Africa is a violent society. It is perceived that it is in the public arena that 1 out of 3 women in South Africa experienced some form of violence in many shades such as sexual, emotional, cultural, social, domestic, psychological, political and economic. The participants said the violence against women is systemic and structural.
That the social structures are the embodiment of violence against women, conscious or unconscious. That the societal body-politic, laws and policies are made such that women are marginalised and made dysfunctional in a society where masculinity is the dominant form of social expression against femininity.
Women who entre this masculine society are expected and so act as if there was no gender change in the system. Women are expected to conform to the system. Those who try to transform the social system are frowned upon both openly or clandestinely.
Socialisation: The issue of socialisation came up once more. Whenever a discussion is taken on the abuse, violence and suppression of women the concern about socialisation come up. In this instant a question arises as to which generation is prepared to stop the spiral of different ways in which society raises male and female persons.
The question has long been on the table but where is the national programme of action in schools and society which seek to correct the problem of inferiority and superiority complexes engendered by society – on notions of socialisation?
One could argue that: “Both men and women of all nations are made in the image of God. According to the theology of equality and gender, women and men are co-substantial, co-equal and co-existent just as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the God-head in the Trinity. Women and men are created in the image of the same God, as one flesh and one spirit (Gen. 1: 26 – 29; 2: 7, 23). Women and men are made of the same material substance. The choice of gender and human sexuality or sexual orientation is not a human privilege – meaning humans have no privilege of choosing their gender from conception.” (Ngoetjana L M, 2017). What happens then? Since it is observed that social structures have entrenched violence against women, the patriarchal complement of it destroys the ego and the confidence of women to take on the lower position of society. This is also done with the assistance of women who have been so socialised in the patriarchal system and it happens it looks like it is a women’s thing. Women are addressing the younger ones as to how to behave and take your feminine part in this ‘particular family, or community or society’. It is told this has always been the case from time immemorial and so it will stand.
Economic and Social Power: The participants then discussed the nexus between economic and social power. It was muted out that economic power supersedes social power. That the economic and the social power do meet at the interconnection. And yet social power is negligible without economic power. The same is the case that political power is insignificant and meaningless without economic power. Ultimately economic power for women will be ‘Good News as unto the poor, the powerless, the marginalised and the oppressed as women would be in our societies.
What is Good News to the women, the poor and marginalised? “Otherwise, what is good news to the sinners? Is it not to know that their sins are forgiven? And to the blind; that their sight is restored? And to the poor; that their spiral of poverty is broken? And to the marginalised; that there is equal opportunity for all? And to the homeless; that there is land available on which they can build their houses? Indeed, this led us to the radical reidentification of Christianity and the great commission. Formally, Christianity was identified with: Laissez fair capitalism, individual initiative, fear of government control of the market, the power of the power of consumer in social and economic change, the upward mobility of class structures, democracy as the most suitable (biblical form of government, organisation as the key to maximum development, the inevitability of progress, the middle class as a source of class and the progress in society (Sider 1981: 64).
But, contextual theologies have made their point clear that according to their reading of the Bible, Christianity was a grassroots movement. The gospel was addressing social problems in the same strength as with all other concerns especially those that were affecting the poor and the marginalized directly. Jesus did not mince his words when it came to giving support and being in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed of his time. He set an example for us to be concerned about the plight of the poor and oppressed of our situations (In Ngoetjana L M 2014). The same Jesus was known to be on the side with of women in a very religio-patriarchal society which was excluding them in priestly religious practices in particular.
The Great Commission: It was further noted in the discussion that participants must not neglect the Great Commission. An input was made that participants must rise above the perception of the world and society in material terms only. The participants were persuaded to the direction that the issues we are discussing – of the abuse and violence against women have a spiritual dimension which calls for the application of the Great Commission and fervent preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This input was welcome and acknowledged as the very part and mission of the Church in the world as much as the church must not leave out the issues of Social Justice.
As a way forward the narrator as a reporter wants to bring in a caution which comes from the angle of Practical Theology. The caution says much that we have theologized we need to listen to the actual real stories of women who have suffered various form of violence and abuse. The participants must look at the specifics of every story teller in context and taking note of particular details in order to come up with a practical plan of action towards the transformation of the plight of women enduring violence from our society. It is called the narrative of social-constructionist approach.
“The narrative or social-constructionist approach on the contrary forces us to firstly listen to the stories of people struggling in real situations, not merely to a description of a general context, but to be confronted with a specific and concrete situation. This approach to practical theology, although also hermeneutical in nature, is more reflexive in its approach and method. It takes the circular movement of practice-theory-practice seriously and brings it into operation. Practical theology, according to this approach, indeed becomes part of “doing theology” and takes the social-constructions, within actual contexts, seriously. The practical theologian in this case, is not so much concerned with abstractions and generalisations but rather with the detail of a particular person’s story” (Muller, J).
The participants said as a way forward:
- We need a strong emphasis on the Gospel of repentance which is life transforming.
- The Councils of Churches must be the voice of influence by creating platforms of dialogue and campaign against violence towards women in the communities.
- The Councils of Churches must be visible in the communities were women are violated and just be in workshops.
- We must affirm women and encourage them to take positions of leadership.
- Let see and hear women liberate themselves.
- Stories of good men must be told.
- Influence media on positive stories of men.
- Men must be encouraged to neglect benefits of patriarchal systems and sacrifice in solidarity with women.
Collated: Dr L M Ngoetjana