CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Violence against women 
and family values

In response to violence against women, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1999.

One out of three women have been subjected to beating, sexual abuse or other forms of abuse. In most cases, abusers are familiar with their victims. Therefore, this day is also marked as International Day against Domestic Violence, reminding all countries of their responsibility in eliminating these tragic acts.

Violent acts refer to any action resulting in physical, sexual or mental suffering, including slavery, coercion, trafficking or forced prostitution. Research shows that violence against women is a major cause of death or physical disability in young women, and severely affects their health and ability to have children. Verbal abuse in daily life is also a form of violent behaviour.

Since 1981, women’s rights advocates have observed November 25 as a day to stand against violence, as well as commemorate the brutal murder in the Dominican Republic of three politically active sisters in 1960. Activities are organised to counter and eliminate violence between then and December 10, Human Rights Day.

In 1985, the Third World Conference on Women adopted the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies, which aim to promote the status of women. In 1993, the United Nations issued the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, noting that domestic violence is a violation of their rights and fundamental freedoms, and is a manifestation of unequal power relations between men and women.

In 1995, when the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, the focus was on the issue of combating domestic violence.

In Hong Kong, incidents of abusive acts against women are not uncommon. The Social Welfare Department says that in the past decade, cases of spouse battering increased from over 2,000 in 2000 to over 6,000 in 2007. There were over 4,800 cases in 2009 and over 2,300 cases in the first 10 months of 2010.

Violence not only violates dignity, but also has a serious impact on family harmony and the children. The social teaching of the Catholic Church points out that all people, inasmuch as they are created in the image of God, have the dignity of a person.

Men and women are equal in dignity and rights, and violence offends this.

However, some members of the Church, at different times, have not only discriminated against or behaved violently towards women, but sought to justify their action. As early as 1995, Pope John Paul II issued his Letter to Women condemning these acts. 

The pope offered an apology in the Jubilee Year of 2000, seeking forgiveness for sins committed in the name of the Church through the ages and for sins against women. He admitted to his own sins of ignoring women’s dignity, as well as those of his predecessors.

During this Year of the Laity, Catholics should be concerned about human dignity. As pointed out by Pope John Paul, individuals should start by changing their own behaviour in terms of respecting the status of women.

This is also important in family life, as a child who grows in a peaceful and warm atmosphere learns how to respect others. Although few people took any notice of the pope’s apology, it is an important declaration, as care and respect for people is the beginning of dignity. SE