No justification for violence against women

A member of a women’s group with the Abhilasha Federation, shares her views during an empowerment training seminar focusing on the role of women in community development, leadership and economic empowerment, in Shahpur, Betul, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo: ELC WESA PROJECT

LWF leader encourages Indian churches to preach, teach and speak out against sexual violence

(LWI) - Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge has encouraged of all LWF member churches in India to step up efforts to stop violence against women and promote greater gender justice in their country.

In a letter sent to the Interim Executive Secretary of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI), Rev A. Joshua Peter, the LWF leader says it is “with dismay and pain that we […..] have received the recent news about cases of sexual violence in your country that have again taken the lives of women.”

On 5 December a woman was set on fire while on her way to court in Uttar Pradesh State to press charges against two men she accused of raping her. Police in the same Unnao District opened a murder enquiry last July against a ruling party lawmaker after a woman, who accused him of rape, was seriously wounded in a car crash that killed two of her aunts and injured her lawyer. On 27 November a woman was gang raped and burnt to death in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Rape cases on the rise

Recent Indian government statistics show that reported cases of sexual violence are on the rise, with an average of 92 women being raped every day. The increase comes despite significant legal changes that were introduced in 2012 following an international outcry over the gang rape and murder of a medical student in Delhi.

In the message, Junge says he is encouraged by the way UELCI leaders have received and made use of resources such as the Gender Justice Policy, approved by the LWF Council in 2013.

“Because of your deep roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ and your commitment to let this gospel speak in your own contexts,” Junge adds, “we know we stand united in firmly rejecting any form of violence against women, and condemning the recent brutal events that have shaken us all.”

No justification for violence

Rather than feeling paralyzed by such events, he continues, “we shall offer our witness that, rooted in faith, will make no distinction between men and women and always reject violence, including sexual violence.”

The LWF general secretary urges the church leaders to “speak publicly to unequivocally reject and oppose sexual based violence, as well as any justification for it.” He invites them to preach and to teach children in Sunday School about the God-given dignity and equal value of women and men. He urges them to offer projects that empower women, giving access to resources and participation in decision-making, and to ensure that all congregations and church institutions are safe spaces for women.