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Mark Nozell
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Mark Nozell
UK News

Faith groups and secular feminists urged to partner in fight against 'toxic masculinity'

by Tola Mbakwe

A new report by Christian Aid has called for people of faith and secular feminists to team up in their push for global equality for women. 

Equality at All Levels: Strengthening the role of faith-based actors in promoting the Beijing +25 agenda claims that in order for true equality is to be achieved, faith leaders must recognise the part religions have played in putting forward patriarchal norms.

The report has urged religious groups to take tangible steps to "get their own houses in order and commit to promoting and supporting gender equality and human rights through their communities".

Christian Aid's report marks 25 years since the 'Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action'. It was visionary agenda for gender equality and women's rights and was adopted by 189 governments. 

However, the charity said women are still more likely than men to live below 50 per cent of the median income; most countries only give women three-quarters of the rights given to men, and 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Christian Aid said while there have been improvements in gender equality, recent trends in some parts of the world have stifled progression. 

Dr Marianna Leite, Christian Aid's global lead on gender and inequality, said: "In the last decade, we have seen a fightback against so-called 'gender ideology'. This has led to toxic narratives filled with hatred that incite violence and put forward a regressive portrayal of masculinity. This toxic masculinity includes the dangerous idea that men should have power over women.

"As a faith-based organisation motivated by our belief in the dignity of all and an understanding that each of us stands equal before God, we call on churches and other religious institutions to lead the way in promoting gender equality in every sphere of society, including our own faith communities and institutions.

"By working with women's rights groups, faith-based actors have the potential to strengthen movements for gender justice and demonstrate that religious voices can, and must, uphold women's rights."

The Equality at All Levels report invites faith actors to commit to specific actions to tackle gender inequality, including: work on theological and faith understandings which are critical to deconstructing the gender stereotypes that limit women's rights;

guarantee an increase in female faith leaders and feminist theologians who have power and connect with the lived experience of women; and address unequal access to education and training within church structures.

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, chief executive of Christian Aid, said: "Over the past 75 years, Christian Aid has harnessed experience working with religious and secular actors towards gender justice. But we recognise that religious institutions have at times played a part in exacerbating gender inequality. 

"We acknowledge that religious institutions, at times, have been shaped by patriarchal structures, and recognise that this has been a disservice to women and girls throughout history. This disservice also erodes the valuable contribution faith institutions have made over the years, including providing basic services such as education and health to many communities across the world.

"It is precisely because we recognise the failures of religious institutions and faith actors  that we feel compelled to ensure that gender justice and equality are the basis on which we conduct our work."

She called for faith communities to promote rights and well-being of women and girls, and challenge harmful practices.

"Those who believe in a God of justice must not remain silent when the roll-back on gender equality threatens the progress we have already made, and those achievements yet to be won," she added.

"The role of religious leaders in combating these unjust systems of oppression has never been more important."

The report was due to be launched at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) on 10th March, but has now been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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