Faith Actors in Africa Recommend Gender Justice, Child Protection Laws to Curb Violence

Logo All African Council of Churches (AACC)

The All African Council of Churches (AACC) and other faith-based actors have recommended the formulation of legislations that support safety of women and children as their way forward in reinforcing gender justice and child safeguarding.

The recommendation was among a set of six proposals, which the representatives of churches in Africa made on Friday, November 27 during the launch of their 16 days of activism to curb Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV).

“The convening participants recommended that they would establish localized church/mosque legislations that support safety of women and children,” AACC leadership said in a statement that was shared with ACI Africa at the end of the launch.

The Faith Actors agreed that the legislation to be formed would include policies on gender and child protection.

Some of the faith-based organizations at the launch were the World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (WCC-EHAIA), the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (WCC- EDAN), Christian Aid, Side by Side, the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA), World Vision, and Faith to Action Network.

Leaders of different faith organizations who attended the launch in Kenya’s capital Nairobi also resolved to build partnerships with research institutions and academia in order to strengthen the availability of evidence on the gender implications of health emergencies.

This, the leaders said, would help to inform gender-sensitive and responsive advocacy and programmatic interventions.

The faith-based organizations also resolved to convene religious institutions analysis of religious norms that propagate cycles of violence against women and children and to ensure that faith-based organizations are part of the referral pathways towards ensuring access to SGBV and child protection services throughout the health crisis and beyond.

It was noted at the launch that donors were shying away from supporting AACC and other faith organizations for what was described as their indirect role in promoting gender injustice.

“The donor community does not see religious leaders and actors as partners because of their belief in religious and cultural ideologies that indirectly contribute to violence against women and child abuse,” AACC officials note in the statement shared with ACI Africa. 

Additionally, it was observed that women and children do not see churches as safe spaces whenever they go through injustices and violence.

Explaining the reluctance, AACC official say, “Churches and faith-based organizations are sometimes part of the power dynamics that perpetuate oppression and violence against women and children by upholding patriarchal norms and violent masculinities.”  

The faith-based leaders further highlighted the lack of consensus among religious actors on Sexual Reproductive Health issues affecting women and girls as one of the factors contributing to the laxity by the churches to curb SGBV. Such lack of consensus, they said, include sex education and use of contraceptives.

The position of many religious leaders toward harmful cultures such as child marriage and FGM are potentially shaped by the patriarchal cultures – and the faith actors lack spaces to influentially interrogate the retrogressive cultures, AACC observed. 

The religious actors and leaders at the conference therefore committed to collaborate with organizations and agencies that foster gender justice and children protection on all levels to increase religious leaders’ ability in ending SGBV and child abuse.

They also found it important to ensure that faith actors and their grassroots partners are updated on the existing SGBV referral pathways and are able to disseminate the same to facilitate access to SGBV services throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

“The faith actors need to ensure that the church owned health centers offer services and provide competencies to render a comprehensive response to sexual violence and its consequences,” the leaders resolved in their statement, and added, “This should include, counselling, shelters, hotlines, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections such HIV, and provide pregnancy-related care for women and girls.”

They also expressed a commitment to ensuring that excluded women and girls including those from remote communities, disabled, displaced persons, migrants, refugees, and others have equal access to SGBV prevention and response during the health crisis.

The leaders resolved to discourage “out of court” settlements, which they said, continue to undermine justice and “re-victimize” SGBV survivors.

In a keynote address during the launch, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle urged faith-based actors who attended the launch in Kenya’s capital to apply the principles of the Bible in dealing with the issues of gender injustice and child protection.

“It is often said charity begins at home. The first and the right place for faith actors to begin to take action on Gender Justice and Child Protection is the church,” Rev.  Olasupo said in a statement that was Presented by Rev. Dr. Samuel Aderemi Olaleye Friday, November 27.

Rev. Olasupo urged faith actors on the continent to work with the leadership of the church to ensure gender equality and protection for children are practiced in the church.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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