Why does Gender-Based Violence (GBV) continue to literally bedevil humanity and remain such a pervasive issue in our society?  In South Africa, whenever the annual 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence comes around it is often called another pandemic, but one that never seems to end.  There is general agreement about its complexity and is being addressed in the media, by government, police, social welfare, education and religious groups and NGOs from their different perspective and in different ways. 

I have engaged in a small way in this FAMILY MATTERS and on my Radio Veritas show with groups; FAITH ACTION, FOR AN END TO GBV and with SONKE GENDER JUSTICE from a Fatherhood perspective.  Another way is from a broad sexuality angle.  MARFAM’s August theme was “Sexuality, a Family Gift.”  In our day it is recognized as a gift, and something beautiful, created by God for all of creation.  Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love, addresses it at length in the context of marriage, and particularly through the need for “positive and prudent” sexuality education for our children.   But that was not always the Church’s view.

On 8th December the Year of St Joseph ends. It is the feastday of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, a popular feast celebrated widely, but one that needs to be correctly understood. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 491 states “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin,” This was proclaimed as a revealed truth, a dogma of faith, by Pope Pius IX in 1854 after discernment and approval from the bishops. It was affirmed by Our Lady herself when in her apparition to St Bernadette in Lourdes she said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” However, on another less spiritualized level Wikipedia presents a current world view of the time, that was also held in the Church, that original sin has particularly strong sexual connotations.  

The Church has an ambivalent relationship with sexuality. While she now promotes the positive vision of sexuality, the reality of GBV manifests itself within the Catholic and other churches, in addition to the many ways it is present in society. This shows us how much work is to be done to continue the redemptive work of Jesus and “redeem” this aspect of God’s creation.  

It is often said that GBV is not about sex but about power, but it can be both. The context is sexual, almost invariably a male and female relationship, while the behaviour is about power; dominance, uncontrolled aggression, submission, victimization. There may be alcohol and substance abuse but we cannot ignore the issue of free will and the need for conscience formation.   

What are some related sexual factors?   Pornography is reportedly a massive factor – at any stage of life from childhood to mature adulthood, porn abuse and addiction involves males but females too. https://endsexualexploitation.org/ Other factors are seduction, sexual harassment, rape, possibly resulting in pregnancy and lasting consequences mainly for a woman.http://www.cultureoflife.co.za Teenage pregnancy often, but not always, includes coercion when girls are with peers or older men. There may be prostitution because of poverty and receiving the child grant, small as it us. Women may choose, or girls may be forced into this, even by parents, who do also arrange child marriages. Trafficking inside and beyond our borders is a fact and migrant women are particularly vulnerable as it can be difficult for them to leave an abusive situation.  Abortion and its aftereffects are GBV matters too. Whatever the violence, there is trauma experienced by a victim but also by a perpetrator. Relationship break down between intimate partners, but across generations within families too is a sad and long term matter.     

Historical factors; an experience of family violence or early abuse by trusted others, of girls and boys, may be repeated and contributes to long-term trauma and inadequate ability to build and maintain relationships.  Sexual violence within same-sex settings or from outside, is not to be disregarded.  

All victims and perpetrators are members of families. Male and female,  husbands, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, wives and women, young and old in various relationships, as well as other trusted persons or colleagues  play a part in the drama.  

Sexuality is a family gift and families are sexual units in the family of families of all of creation.  Family life is intended to be a joyful celebration of life, of the right to life and dignity.  Human sexuality has been and remains a difficult and complex problematic area for the Church, and for society as a whole.   Gender-based violence and abuse of women and children is no new phenomenon and historically has not been properly addressed as has been brought to light in recent years.  December’s family theme is “Family, Hope for the Future.”  It is up to us, families of today to take responsibility, to renew  and sustain this dream of God.  The 2022 FAMILY YEAR PLANNER will be available shortly to continue our mission in the new year.     TR. FAMILY MATTERS.  8 DECEMBER 2021