Last month a poster appeared on several newspapers and advertisement panels showing the pictures of some religious figures (heads of Lebanese religious groups) with a slogan that reads: “We believe… Partners to end violence against women and girls”. “We believe” campaign is an initiative of the NGO Abaad, which is trying to use the authority of sect clerics to protect women in a highly sectarian society.
At first glance it would seem noble of the heads of religious sects to endorse such a message. But a deeper look would unmask the hypocrisy of the religious institution and the naivety of both Abaad and those who believe clerics would bother to do any step that indeed protects women. It is not a secret that discrimination on the basis of gender is well rooted in abrahamic religions, which have always been used as a repressive system, to marginalize women (in the best scenario) and encourage violence against them (in the worst).
Christian and Muslim clerics have surely found Abaad’s initiative a good tool to exploit for polishing their image and increasing their authority in public. It was a not-to-miss opportunity to present oneself as a supporter of women’s rights; especially for those who opposed earlier last year the draft law aiming to protect women from domestic violence, saying it “defies patriarchal authority” and would cause “the dismantling of the family as in the West.” It is worth to remember that some of the institutes heads of which are depicted as endorsing Abaad’s message rejected the law draft as “they believe” it is legal for a husband to beat his wife (but not till she starts bleeding). I wonder what do they think of causing her contusion – as in this case there would be no bleeding at all.
In the religious system, the authority of sacred texts and tradition is way higher than the slogans quoted in the posters. The texts expect from women submission and silence – a fertile soil for physical and non-physical violence. From some religions point of view domestic violence and spouse rape are not a crime. The struggle to stop violence against women should not, in anyway, take place under the umbrella of religious institutes unless one is willing to legalize the discrimination and violence that are religiously justified.