Education shift needed for gender violence to end
A Bahá’í perspective
As we commemorate from 25 November to 10 December “16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”, we need to re-examine – in the light of justice – the beliefs and practices that contribute towards the oppression of women and girls and perpetuate violence against them.
Violence against women – with its severe impact on their physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being — is one of the most widespread abuses of human rights.
Abusive practices against them have been, and are still being, justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded ‘scientific theories’ and assumptions.
The effect of the persistent denial to women of full equality with men, in the family set up or in some belief systems, sharpens further the challenge of dealing with violence.
Our individual and collective commitment, demanding action and accountability from the authorities on their commitments, are all necessary.
It is the Bahá’í view that “Alongside critical changes in the legal, political and economic architecture slowly taking shape, the development of individuals’ moral and spiritual capabilities is an essential element in the as yet elusive quest to prevent the abuse of women and girls around the world”.
A commitment to the establishment of full equality between men and women in the family, work place and in the society will be central to the success of efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls.
There is also need for fundamental shift in education to eradicate such violence.
The Bahá’í Writings state: “The world of humanity has two wings — one is women and the other men. Not until both wings ARE EQUALLY DEVELOPED CAN THE BIRD flY. SHOULD ONE WING REMAIN WEAK, flIGHT IS impossible” and “the happiness of mankind will be realized when women and men coordinate and advance equally, for each is the complement and helpmeet of the other”.
Greater focus should be placed on preventing violence
Focus should simultaneously be placed on dealing with gender-based violence and with equal, if not greater, attention on preventing violence.
Despite major advances in the last few decades, the failure to decrease the level of violence, confirms the shortcomings of the primarily reactive approach and the need for greater focus on prevention of violence.
Appropriate laws, and the mechanisms developed for their enforcement, although very necessary, seem to have little impact on eradicating gender-based violence.
There is clearly a need for us to follow moral and spiritual principles. These facilitate the shift in our values required to put into practice gender equality and justice towards all.
In one of its statement the Baha’i International Community says: “Efforts to eradicate the epidemic of violence against women and girls must proceed from and be reinforced by every level of society — from the individual to the international community.
However, they must not be limited to legal and institutional reforms, for these address only the manifest crime and are incapable of generating the deep-rooted changes needed to create a culture where justice and equality prevail ….
Indeed the inner and outer dimensions of human life are reciprocal — one cannot be reformed without the other. It is this inner, ethical and moral dimension which now stands in need of transformation and, ultimately, provides the surest foundation for values and behaviour which raise up women and girls and, in turn, promote the advancement of all of humankind”.
Legislation is needed to lend practical expression to the equality of men and women when dealing with the particular injustices which women face.
A profound adjustment in humanity’s outlook is necessary, guided by the spiritual principles to eradicate violence. “Indeed, it is in the recognition of the oneness of the human family that hearts will soften, minds will open, and the attitudes of men and women will be transformed.
Education should promote gender equality and justice
An important way to promote justice, equality and cooperation is through education. such education, however, should be a combination of intellectual and moral education, academic knowledge and spiritual guidance.
Without actively promoting moral and spiritual development, in addition to secular education, we cannot cultivate the virtues that are at the heart of any effort to promote equality, cooperation and social cohesion.
In the Bahá’í view “violence arises from ignorance — the failure to understand such fundamental realities as the oneness of the human race and the mistaken notion that force is the only honOURABLE WAY TO RESOLVE CONflICTS.
Education — moral, material and practical — is therefore not only a fundamental right but a practical necessity in today’s world. Any attempt to curb societal violence that does not educate individuals to overcome gender prejudice will certainly fall short”.
Any effective efforts to end violence against women and girls require a partnership between men and women. Likewise responsibility for the change that will bring about gender equality rests with both.
Measures to create violence-free families and societies will be short-lived if it does not involve early training of boys.
Partnership with men and boys is important, because unless men refuse to accept laws and practices which discriminate against, and humiliate their daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, the change will not be possible.