Home Essays Essay: Gender Based Violence and Religion by Esther Ojetunde.

Essay: Gender Based Violence and Religion by Esther Ojetunde.



Gender based violence is violence directed against a person because of that person’s gender, or violence that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately.[1]

Religion is the entire collection of beliefs, values, and practices that a group holds to be the true and sacred. A group’s religious beliefs explain where the people fit in relation to the universe and how they should behave while here on Earth.[2]

Gender-based violence (GBV) is the most pervasive yet least visible human rights violation in the world. It includes physical, sexual, mental or economic harm inflicted on a person because of socially ascribed power imbalances between males and females. It also includes the threat of violence, coercion and deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private.

In all societies, women and girls have less power than men – over their bodies, decisions and resources. Social norms that condone men’s use of violence as a form of discipline and control reinforce gender inequality and perpetuate gender-based violence. Across the globe, women and girls – especially adolescents – face the greatest risk.

Gender-based violence takes numerous forms: Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, female infanticide, and ‘honour’ crimes are common – with intimate partner violence occurring at staggering rates in every country.[3]

Groups that are particularly vulnerable include:

  • women and girls
  • children
  • older people
  • people living with disabilities
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual (LGBTQA+) people (Nkonyane, 2019)

Religious houses are the bastions of chauvinism and women oppression in this country. They exercise not just influence, but also real power over the teeming millions of their devotees. The religious leaders’ word is unquestioningly taken for gospel by the believer. The worship centres commands the women folk to be “submissive” to the men folk in all circumstance, then, chastise the woman for not being submissive enough the moment the man turns nasty.

There is hardly a dispute between a couple that is not traced to the woman’s conduct or misconduct in the led up to the attack on them. Both Islam and Christian doctrines reference women as chattels of their men; a nod and a wink to the misogynistic impulse in men. It creates and augments the man’s propensity to violence against women.[4]

Some warning signs of abuse in the home or in a relationship include:

  • Pushing for quick involvement: Comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.”
  • Jealousy: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone.”
  • Controlling Behavior: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you’re late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to do anything.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
  • Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who support you of “causing trouble.”
  • Blaming others for problems or mistakes: It’s always someone else’s fault when anything goes wrong.
  • Making others responsible for his or her feelings: The abuser says, “You make me angry,” instead of “I am angry,” or says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.”
  • Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad.
  • Cruelty to animals or children: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also, may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry.
  • Use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex.
  • Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things, degrades, curses, calls you ugly names.
  • Rigid roles: Expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
  • Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.
  • Past battering: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person “made” him (or her) do it.
  • Threats of violence: Says things like, “I’ll break your neck,” or “I’ll kill you,” and then dismisses them with, “I didn’t really mean it.”
  • Controlling behaviors using social media or technology[5]


Forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV)

GBV can occur in many different forms. These are the most common forms:








  • Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking
  • Burning
  • Strangulation
  • Damaging personal property
  • Refusing medical care and/or controlling medication
  • Coercing partner into substance abuse
  • Use of weapons


  • Name calling, insulting
  • Blaming the partner for everything
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Intimidation
  • Shaming, humiliating
  • Isolation
  • Controlling what the partner does and where the partner goes
  • Stalking


  • Forcing a partner to have sex with other people
  • Pursuing sexual activity when the victim is not fully conscious or is afraid to say no
  • Hurting partner physically during sex
  • Coercing partner to have sex without protection / sabotaging birth control



  • Hacking into a partner’s e-mail and personal accounts
  • Using tracking devices in a partner’s cell phone to monitor their location, phone calls and messages
  • Monitoring interactions via social media
  • Demanding to know partner’s passwords



  • Inflicting physical harm or injury that would prevent the person from attending work
  • Harassing partner at their workplace
  • Controlling financial assets and effectively putting partner on an allowance
  • Damaging a partner’s credit score


The impact of GBV

The potential harmful impacts of these forms of GBV include:

1. Ill health

2. psychological, physical and emotional trauma

3. Unwanted pregnancies

4. Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection

5. Suicide

6. Depression

7. Low self-esteem

8. Death

9. Educational delays with your studies

10. Drop out[6]

Religious teaching can be a serious hindrance to having faith communities responding actively to GBV. Teaching can support religious beliefs that contribute to creating an environment that justifies GBV and hamper survivorsfrom seeking help and leaving abusive situations. Especially messages about submissiveness have been used to justify abuse.

Furthermore, the beliefs espoused by faith leaders on the issue of divorce are often detrimental to the safety of those experiencing GBV.Many faith leaders see the sanctity of marriage and families as the most important issues, more important than the mental and/or physical safety of an abused spouse.

In some instances, faith leaders are not uniformly uninvolved in GBV, but limited in their willingness to address all forms of GBV. For example, some faith leaders speak out against child sexual abuse but refuse to say anything about intimate partner violence. This means that many faith communities address only some forms of GBV and are supportive spaces for only some types of survivors.Survivors often internalize patriarchal religious constructs of what it means to be a ‘good’ religious person, blaming themselves for the abuse they are/were subjected to and staying within abusive situations.

In conclusion,Gender based Violence is not a women’s issue – it is everyone’s issue. And as such it should be addressed by everyone, not only by women. However, the realities of very restrictive patriarchal structures make it important that men, and especially male faith leaders, be targeted and incorporated into faith-based intervention strategies. This does not mean that men should be the sole targets and actors.On the contrary, it is a call for female and male partnership in owning and addressing GBV in and through faith communities.[7]




1.https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/gender-equality/gender-based-violence/what-gender-based-violence_en, last accessed 20/4/22.

2.https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-religious-belief-definition-systems-quiz.html, last accessed 21/4/22.

3.https://www.unicef.org/protection/gender-based-violence-in-emergencies, last accessed 21/4/22.

4.https://punchng.com/how-religion-enables-gender-based-violence/, last accessed 21/4/22.

5.https://www.wadvocates.org/find-help/about-domestic-violence/warning-signs-of-abuse/, last accessed 21/4/22.

6.https://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/myunisa/default/Announcements/Gender%E2%80%93based-violence, last accessed 21/4/22.

7.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315998705_Men_and_women_in_partnership_Mobilizing_faith_communities_to_address_gender-based_violence, last accessed 22/4/22.


Writyem by: Ojetunde Esther

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