Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, established by the United Nations in 1999. This particular date was chosen to commemorate the brutal assassination, in 1960, of three sisters who were political dissidents in the Dominican Republic. Their murder was ordered by the regime of the time, and this kind of state sponsored violence is just one of many strands of discrimination against women, which the UN seeks to address. Violence against women comes in many forms: physical, psychological, sexual and economic.
We might wonder why women in particular should be singled out in this way, when surely all violence is to be deplored, and when women are sometimes the perpetrators of violence against others. But the fact is that women suffer disproportionately, often because of their relative weakness physically, and their disadvantaged position socially and educationally in many cultures. In recent years we’ve seen rape used as a weapon of war, and witnessed dreadful reprisals on women who have spoken out on behalf of their sex, for more freedom and opportunity.
Much closer to home is the continuing problem of domestic violence, where women are abused, both physically and emotionally, by partners who profess to love them, in places where they should expect to feel most safe.
Loving God, we pray today for women who live in fear of violence, because others choose to abuse their power over them. We give thanks for those women, and men, who speak out for justice and equality. Give us the courage to add our voice to theirs and stand in solidarity with them. Amen.