A Place at the Table: The Challenges and Opportunities of Including Religion in a Collaborative Community Response to Domestic Violence

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Catherine HOLTMANN, Muriel McQueen Centre for Family Violence Research, Canada
Since 1993 violence against women has been recognized by the United Nations as a human rights issue and the UN has provided norms and standards for holding governments accountable for changing the conditions that enable it to prevail.  In 2008, the UNite to End Violence Against Women campaign declared that the most common form of violence against women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner.  The World Health Organization estimates global prevalence rates for domestic violence at an average of 30% (2013).  Domestic violence is a widespread and persistent social problem impacting women from all racial, ethnic, economic class, religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical ability social locations.  Best practices in addressing this problem include a collaborative response at the community level but the anti-violence movement in Canada has been slow to include religious voices at the table.  This paper presents the findings of sociological research at the intersection of domestic violence and religion conducted amongst Canadian Christian and Muslim groups. Qualitative data was collected from over 100 women and almost 50 religious leaders and service providers in several studies.  The findings indicate that religious teachings and practices offer both challenges and opportunities for women in these faith groups as well as for religious leaders and public service professionals who seek to support them in the journey towards safety.  Within religious groups, women’s lived religious practices challenge patriarchal gender roles.  Religious women’s beliefs and practices challenge the secular feminist anti-violence practices that rely on theorizing women as autonomous individuals and theorizing patriarchal religions as essentially misogynistic.  Secular feminist anti-violence praxis challenges Christian and Muslim theologies and practices of gender hierarchies and the silence of religious leaders when it comes to addressing the problem of domestic violence within their congregations.