Women Face Violent, Hidden, Complex Religious Persecution – In-Depth Report: Men and Women Targeted Differently for Religious Beliefs.
In the latest in-depth report focused on gender persecution, the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List reveals that gender contributes to a large disparity in the methods used for religious persecution. While men experience religious persecution that is focused, severe and visible due to socioeconomic ostracism and brutal physical violence, women, who face double persecution because of their gender and religious beliefs, experience religious persecution that is violent, hidden and complex from sexual violence, forced marriage
Religious persecution is gender-specific. The way men and women experience religious persecution is directly associated with their socio-culturally accepted gender identity and roles. Women have virtually no means legally or in society to stand up for themselves and fight against these human rights violations.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA.
Rita, a Christian woman from the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, is still suffering
As Christians, women are also largely restricted in their free or practice of religion through domestic and social actors. Persecutors can simply take advantage of women’s limitations and vulnerabilities as women in their culture in combination with their vulnerabilities as members of a minority faith. Christian women are much more vulnerable to sexual violence like rape and forced marriage than other women.
In 59 percent of the 50 countries surveyed, sexual assault was described as a characteristic of religious persecution. Christian women who do not dress like Muslim women, i.e., wearing a hijab, are easily and immediately identified and can be subject to sexual harassment on the street.
For women, rape and sexual violence are connected to honor and used intentionally to dishonor Christian women and their community. Women will bring shame upon their families if they fail to uphold high norms surrounding their sexuality. Thus if a woman converts to Christianity, she is much more prone to sexual violence. Rape is often used as a deliberate form of punishment in reaction to conversion to Christianity.
When Esther was 17, Boko Haram attacked her Christian village of Gwoza in Nigeria’s Borno state and abducted her, along with numerous other young girls. The militants did everything they could to make the Christian girls renounce their faith. A few of the men wanted to marry Esther. Because she would not give in to their demands to renounce her faith and marry, Esther was raped continually as punishment and eventually impregnated by one of the many men who violated her.
Other means of punishment due to conversion include forced divorce and denial of custody of children: 35 percent of the countries surveyed mentioned forced divorce, and 31 percent of surveyed countries mentioned denial of custody of children for Christian women. If their Christian conversion is discovered, women are also often forced to marry a Muslim as a means of bringing the woman back to the correct religion, a task put on the new husband. Other times, a Christian girl is kidnapped and forced into marriage in a dominant-religion family. Of those countries surveyed, 57 percent noted forced marriage as a means to persecute Christian women.
For men, economic harassment ranked No. 1 as the primary pressure point of religious persecution, followed by shaming or shunning, physical violence, government incarceration
Both men and woman face shaming or shunning equally as a means to dissuade them from their chosen faith. This is an especially powerful means of social pressure for countries with a highly explicit honor-shame system such as India and Pakistan.
Persecution at a Glance
Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape, and even death as a result of their faith.
From November 1, 2017, to October 31, 2018, researchers gathered data for the 50 countries appearing on the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List. Data for gender profiles was provided for 49 countries for women and 45 countries for men. View more information on the methodology of this report here.
About Open Doors USA
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Article compliments of Open Doors and DeMoss.