19 Jun 2013

Guide for churches to help combat violence against women

5:30 pm on 19 June 2013

There are high hopes a new manual for churches and schools in the Pacific will combat increasing rates of violence against women.

Women theologians at the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools have had an English guide to the scriptures translated into six different Pacific languages.

The co-ordinator of the project, Titilia Vakadewavosa, says the manual for teachers is aimed at getting people to see the Bible from a woman's perspective and address increasing rates of violence against women.

TITILIA VAKADEWAVOSA: The book is about looking at the issue of violence against women in the different contexts - on the human rights perspective, especially with theological reflections. That is very important for us to look at it from that perspective. How we see the Bible, how we see scriptures. That seems to be a text of terrors that perpetuates violence against women. I can say it's the first manual that has been translated into Fijian and other Pacific languages to address this issue. We totally believe that people will take it down to the church members, right to the grass roots where they can understand it in their own language.

SALLY ROUND: And can you give us an example of one of the issues that you tackle in the manual that is actually going to change attitudes?

TV: Yes. I think the theological reflection is very important. Most Pacific people are very much patriarchal. There are some that are still very conservative regarding how they treat women in the different cultures, in the different contexts that they come from. We feel that most of this is dictated by how they look at the Bible, and most of them are not very well aware. To look at the Bible in the eyes of God, to look at the Bible in the eyes of women, to look at it in a more liberal way, rather than culturally, rather than being dictated [by] their own traditional cultures regarding women.

SR: And do you think there is a willingness among the men, say, at grass-roots level, to look at the Bible in this way?

TV: It is a very challenging. It's a good question and it's something that we know we have to tackle. We have to move on to it. We have to stop being intimidated by how our culture dictates things for us as women. We're trying to overcome that now.

SR: So there is still some resistance there? You sound like it is a bit of a fight to get this message across.

TV: It is, it is. It's a very sensitive issue. We believe that there needs to be a change. It needs to be taken to them so they can understand it, because maybe some of them are not really aware of where we are coming from and how they need to look at it in the way that we want them to. We believe that more dialogue and more consultation and more face-to-face discussion regarding the issue will help.