Violence is not our Culture
In 2007, the global campaign Violence is Not our Culture (VNC) was launched to end the relentless misuse of religion and culture to justify the killing, maiming and torture of women as punishment for violating the imposed ‘norms’ of sexual behaviour.
The campaign is not against any culture, religion or faith. We believe in promoting the positive, inclusive values and discourses that are part of our cultures. What we seek to challenge and oppose is the legitimacy given to legal, religious and cultural systems that either promote or mitigate discrimination and violence against women and girls.
The campaign is most active in Muslim contexts, as it grew predominantly from struggles in countries like Iran, Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan opposing cruel and inhuman punishments against women and girls such as stoning, whippings, female genital mutilation and honour killings. The campaign believes that CVAW manifests in multiple and diverse forms across all cultures. Therefore, steps are being taken to expand and make links with those working in diverse religious and cultural contexts.
Honour killings were first legally sanctioned in the Napoleonic Codes, and the ‘grave and sudden provocation’ clause was introduced by Europeans into the legislation of many countries with colonial histories across Latin America, Asia and Africa. In Italy, honour killings were sanctioned until 1981 and men who killed their wives, sisters, or daughters in a ‘fit of fury’ upon catching them in the act of adultery could receive no more than a 7 year sentence. In 2006, Nicaragua outlawed abortion even in cases of medical emergency due to the strong influence of the Catholic church, which results in women who try to exercise their reproductive rights becoming targets of backlash, intimidation, and harm by the State and community members. In 2008 reports began surfacing that self-proclaimed morality police in certain Jewish sects in Israel were inciting violence against women for failing to cover their heads or opting for divorce. In Senegal, early/forced marriages of minors are still occurring, despite their being national legislation prohibiting forced marriage and setting the national marriage age for girls at 16. In 2009 President Karzai signed the Shia Family Code which effectively legalizes marital rape, including a clause which maintains a husband’s right to withhold basic necessities, including food, until a wife submits to his sexual demands.
The underlying connection in all of these cases is that women’s fundamental rights to control their own bodies and make their own life choices are being denied on the basis of claims of cultural or religious authority and authenticity. Such claims must be rejected, as there is no cultural or religious right to threaten, harm, torture or execute anyone because she is a woman exercising her human rights.
Local Struggles, Global Sisterhood
The VNC Campaign is actively being waged by the women`s movements in countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is supported by numerous allies across the world.
In Pakistan Women have been campaigning against so-called 'honour' crimes since the 1980s under the slogan "There is no honour in killing". Instigated by , this movement has helped to put the spotlight on the issue. The media, politicians and general public have since taken a strong public stance against this practice. Women themselves have become more vocal in their refusal to be sidelined in the patriarchal decision-making process. This awareness raising is key to undercutting the perception by society, especially local communities, that 'honour' killings are an indisputable tradition.
In Nigeria All stoning sentences have been overturned after interventions by local women’s movements. has engaged in bridge building workshops, bringing people together of varying faiths to analyze and identify the ways in which religious texts are manipulated to justify violence against women and girls. Building these bridges of solidarity, BAOBAB takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing CVAW by providing legal support, trainings, outreach and more.
In Iran The Stop Stoning Forever campaign continues to call for the abolition of stoning to death as a legal punishment for 'adultery' charges and for the immediate reversal of all stoning sentences. Although a moratorium on stoning was issues by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi in 2002, stoning continues today due to the lack of state mechanisms and political will to enforce the moratorium. In the face of enormous challenges, the Iranian women`s movement is still active in pushing for legal reform, and launching initiatives that address how culture and religion intersect with violence against women.
In Indonesia Solidaritas Perempuan launched their "Stop the Criminalization and Inhuman Punishment of Women" campaign in 2007. Women's rights defenders hold village discussions on the dangers of allowing culture and religion to justify violence against women. Grassroots women initiate dialogues with state representatives and policy makers, and engage in advocacy through radio shows, print media and film. Similarly, in Aceh, grassroots activists are fighting the Qanun Jinayat (Islamic Penal Code) passed in September 2009, which has introduced stoning to death as a legal punishment for adultery, as well as other kinds of physical and torturous punishments for various crimes.
In the Sudan The Salmmah Women's Resource Center and various women's groups launched a campaign to reform Section 149 of northern Sudan's Penal Code, which equates the offence of rape with the offence of adultery, which discourages northern Sudanese women, including those in Darfur, to report rape. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between northern and southern Sudan signed in 2005 requires the Khartoum government to align their laws with international human rights standards.
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