Churches called to task on preventing and reducing the impact of sexual violence
21 March 2011
The findings from recent research on the role of the church in responding to sexual violence have been presented at an event in London organised jointly by Tearfund, Christian AID and the Anglican Communion.
The report, Silent No More, which was commissioned by the Christian relief and development agency Tearfund, is a self-critical look at the way in which churches have responded to sexual violence in three African countries that have been or are still facing conflict.
The findings of the report show that too often churches have remained silent and failed to care and stand up for people on the margins of society––particularly people affected by sexual violence. It unveiled that although sexual violence is endemic to many countries the scale and impact largely remain hidden. It also criticised the church for deepening the impact of sexual violence through silence and reinforcing stigma and discrimination.
“It is of the first importance that churches and all communities of faith continue to hold before the world’s eyes the absolute priority for justice and dignity for all,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. “We need to equip people to become agents of change and agents of hope. I hope this is the beginning of the church being what it ought to be and should be.”
UN statistics show that in some countries as many as one in three women are beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetimes. This renders women particularly vulnerable to the risk of HIV infection by denying them the means to protect themselves against HIV.
Women and girls are most affected by sexual violence and are most vulnerable to HIV. UNAIDS will work closely with faith-based organizations to ensure the dignity and protection of women and girls
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé
Speaking at the conference, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé said, “Women and girls are most affected by sexual violence and are most vulnerable to HIV. UNAIDS will work closely with faith-based organizations to ensure the dignity and protection of women and girls.”
Key recommendations from the report call for the church to realise its potential in preventing and reducing the impact of sexual violence. The recommendations outline the importance of challenging the prevalence of sexual violence and ask churches to demonstrate compassion and care for people affected by sexual violence. They also urge aid agencies, governments and donors to recognize the potential of the church and to work together against sexual violence.
UNAIDS has called zero tolerance for gender-based violence. In 2009 UNAIDS launched an Agenda for Women and Girls and HIV which is currently being rolled out across the globe. The Agenda outlines the need to accelerate country-level action to transform the way in which gender inequality and the rights of women and girls are addressed through the AIDS response.