Men must see women as equal partners
THE 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – observed internationally, from November 25 to December 10 – is a reminder of the need to re-examine, in the light of justice, the beliefs and practices that contribute to the oppression of women and girls, and perpetuate violence against them.
Violence against women and girls, one of the most widespread abuses of human rights, is unfortunately a fact of life for many women, everywhere. Abusive practices against them are justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded scientific theories and assumptions.
The effect of denying women equality with men sharpens the challenge of dealing with violence.
It is a requirement of justice that everyone is treated equally and with dignity.
But this has often not been the case when dealing with women – one half of the world’s population.
In the Bahá’í view, there is a need for a commitment to the establishment of full equality between women and men in the family, in the workplace and in society, for the success of efforts to eradicate violence against women.
There is also a need for legislation to lend practical expression to gender equality.
According to the Bahá’í writings: “Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God.
“Ending violence against women and girls requires commitment to and observance of moral and spiritual principles… recognition of our oneness, the oneness of the human race, is the key to overcoming our prejudices – whether gender-based, racial or religious – that frequently lead to discrimination and violence…
“If the treatment of women were scrutinised in the light of this ethical standard, we would doubtless move beyond many traditional, religious and cultural practices.”
For gender equality to become a reality, there must be a shift in the values, outlook and conduct of men and women.
The problem of violence cannot be resolved unless men value women as equal partners.
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.”
Appropriate laws and the mechanisms developed for their enforcement seem to have had little impact on eradicating gender-based violence. Most policies focus on the problem of violence rather than its prevention.
Our individual and collective commitment, demanding action and accountability from the authorities on their commitments, are all necessary to end gender-based violence.
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… to prevent the abuse of women and girls around the world.”
Violence against women and girls degrades the victim and the perpetrator. A profound adjustment in humanity’s outlook is necessary, guided by the belief in the oneness of humanity and the consideration of universal values and spiritual principles.