Ending Violence Against Women: How Women Networks Advance Efforts to End Violence Against Women Through Regional Collaborations

According to UN Women, at least 144 countries have passed laws on domestic violence and 154 have laws on sexual harassment. While the legal system recognizes the atrocity of domestic abuse, it does not mean that the atrocity is eradicated. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. According to the World Health Organization, about one in three (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The high statistic demonstrates laws are not the only tool to eradicate violence. The implementation of laws are just as important as their creation. As such, the eradication of violence must be addressed through a wide variety of actors, especially on the grassroots level. Religious communities and its leaders are often key actors for positive social change within communities. These actors must be mobilized and trained in order to create positive social change for the eradication of violence.

The Network recently supported a dialogue session and training in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to continue the efforts to end violence against women among Muslim communities in Thailand, with particular focus on the Southern Provinces (Narathiwat, Songkhla, Yala and Pattani) of Thailand bordering Malaysia. The dialogue and training session was held to enhance the capacity of male and particular female Ulama networks throughout Thailand. This dialogue and training are part of a larger initiative, with the first program in 2018 in Pattani, which focused on knowledge exchange among Islamic Women Leaders.  This program was followed by several other trainings that involved promoting a gender-justice approach in interpreting Islamic texts, and strengthening partnerships between women and men in the three Southern Provinces.

This particular initiative aims to strengthen women Ulama networks in Thailand, to foster strong collaboration and knowledge exchange among networks in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia as well as to strengthen and enhance communication among various Islamic institutions from the three countries to work collaboratively to end violence against women. It is crucial to create a common understanding among religious leaders and Islamic scholars about the urgency of ending violence against women by utilizing basic Islamic teachings that focus on humanity and equality between men and women as well as increase protection for women and children from harmful practices, from an Islamic point of view.

How can Islamic institutions respond to this issue?

  • Return to the classical religious traditions that promote humanity, equality and social justice for men and women and reject any form of violence, especially violence against women.
  • Promote more women friendly methodologies to reading and interpreting Islamic texts by emphasizing the principles of Islam on the equality of men and women.  An example from Indonesia is the mubaadalah (reciprocity) approach, which promotes principles of equality and reciprocity for women and men to enjoy equal social and political roles and responsibilities.
  • Consider biological differences among women and men which affect social and cultural roles of women and men. This must be considered by the Islamic community in the process of formulating fatwas.
  • Strengthening the role of Islamic institutions to provide direct services, such as psychological counselling, for victims of VAW or advocate for justice for survivors of violence against women.
  • Promote the recognition of female Ulama to counter the lack of female representation among Islamic scholars and within religious institutions in Thailand.
  • Strengthen regional women networks in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to promote knowledge sharing and to create spaces for exchange and learning to prevent violence against women.
  • Building concrete collaborations among Islamic institutions (such as Sheikul Islam Office), and across different stakeholders from NGOs, academia and other relevant institutions to collaboratively advance efforts to end violence against women.

There are still challenges in Thailand that hinder the progression in ending violence against women. These challenges include: customary practices in local cultures that discriminate against women still exist, the rise of neo-conservatism and pursuing the “purity of Islam”, stopping women from playing more active roles in public and Islamophobia in Thailand.

The dialogue and training were developed by The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) in collaboration with the Center of Excellence on Women and Social Security (CEWSS), Walailak University, Oxfam Thailand and support by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

For more information, please contact Mirja Brand: Mirja.brand@kua.fi

4 December 2019