No to violence against women


November 25th is one of those days that we would like to stop celebrating soon. Violence against women is a horrifying chapter of human history and requires the determined commitment not only of political authorities but also of social actors. Without a doubt, the Church must take a very active part in this struggle for the dignity of women and any form of discrimination.

One of the most beloved images in our Church is the one of the Virgin Mary in heaven surrounded by angels. Certainly it is an image that expresses God's enormous love for all humanity, which is manifested in a woman. However, in our day, violence against women is still too frequent and in a concrete form such as gender violence.

The image that these events reveal is a different one: that of a woman who is despised, humiliated, and finally killed. It is an image that the Gospels also present to us, in the adulterous woman threatened with stoning and saved by Jesus, and the Old Testament, in Susannah accused by the elders. Our Church needs just people, like Joseph, whom the Gospel describes as just for protecting Mary.

Today, less and less biological reasons are heard in our parishes to explain violence against women and this is due to the constant struggle against female discrimination and gender violence. And we must continue to fight.

Violence against women is like an iceberg where there is a very visible part for the media such as the murder of women and a less visible part, under water, which are other forms of violence. Before the murder, multiple acts of violence are committed against the victims. And we must start by pointing out all the discrimination that women suffer and that FratelliTutti acknowledges:

The organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. Indeed, "doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights" (FT, 23).

To the multiple murders of women that occupy a relevant place in the social and media debate, we must add the murders of minors with the clear intention of harming their mothers. On June 15, 2020, the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Equality reported that so far this year 35 minors had been murdered, innocent children killed in order to exert more violence on their mothers.

The Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, signed in Istanbul on 11 May 2011, in its Preamble, recognizes "with deep concern that women and girls are often exposed to serious forms of violence such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, crimes allegedly committed in the name of 'honour' and genital mutilation, which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of women and girls and a major obstacle to the realization of equality between women and men.

Social networks are exposing teenage girls to unbearable brutality through sexting. This is also a consequence of the pornography that is so present on the Internet and that is so damaging to the affective-sexual education of children and youth. Sexual harassment is an expression of this violence against women, humiliated and objectified also in the images proposed by advertising. These forms of violence must be made visible.

An important chapter of violence against women occurs at work; along with episodes of sexual harassment there are barriers to equal employment and professional opportunities such as:

  • The double shift, an expression that designates those situations in which, in addition to the time dedicated to salaried work, they continue to be the ones who mostly do the housework and take care of the family.
  • Glass ceiling, specified by the International Labor Organization as "situations in which the promotion of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization stops at a certain level because of some form of discrimination, almost always because of sexism or racism.
  • The gender pay gap is "the difference between the wages earned by workers of either sex, calculated on the basis of the average difference between the gross hourly earnings of all workers," as noted and described by the European Commission.
  • Micromachisms, all those practices of gender violence in daily life that, although they may go unnoticed, would perpetuate macho attitudes and inequality of women with respect to men. It should be noted that this term micromachismo is not used in the RAE.

We cannot forget another chapter of violence against women, especially migrants, in which Justice and Peace works, as is the trafficking of women and girls. Trafficking, like prostitution and rape, means the objectification of women, the absolute imposition of the male will. The pandemic situation is aggravating the situation of victims of trafficking in Spain. It refers not only to trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation but also to trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation and trafficking for the purpose of committing criminal acts. Fortunately, a case of trafficking in Spain for the purpose of organ extraction has recently been thwarted. Proyecto Esperanza has expressed its concern about the possible development of internal trafficking cases in view of the closure of the borders.

In our daily lives, fighting violence against women means fighting for alternatives that promote equal opportunities. This includes the reconciliation and co-responsibility within the family in the tasks of care and the compatibility of time dedicated to family and work.

Co-responsibility is a shared responsibility. It is much more than a distribution of tasks; it implies that men and women accept the commitment to know the daily needs of the people with whom they share their lives and to be in a position to help solve them.

In a broader sense, today we speak of social co-responsibility that also includes other social agents: public administrations, companies, trade unions, institutions, non-governmental organizations. In the context of the Church it means synodality.

In short, to fight against violence against women is to fight for equality and human dignity. FratelliTutti has set out the path we must follow:

Truth means recognizing the pain of women who are victims of violence and abuse... Every act of violence committed against a human being is a wound in humanity's flesh; every violent death diminishes us as people... Violence leads to more violence, hatred to more hatred, death to more death. We must break this cycle which seems inescapable (FT, 227)

Fco. Javier Alonso, president of the JP General Commission and JP Madrid