Violence can take many different forms, the most drastic of all being murder. And when the motive is related to the fact that the victim is a woman, it is called femicide. But what does this really mean?
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The activist Diana Russell explained it simply by saying that it is when men kill women women motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or by the assumption of ownership over them.
This problem, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is particularly worrying in Latin America, where the highest rates in the world of this type of violence are found.
Although the word femicide is relatively new, the act it entails is not. It has been going on for hundreds or even thousands of years and, in fact, is described in the Bible.
One of the most lurid passages in the Old Testament in which a femicide is narrated, and perhaps also one of the least known, is Judges 19 or The Levite and his concubine, in which a woman is raped by strangers and then murdered and cut into pieces by her husband.
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Precisely this story is a crucial element in an investigation into the gender violence carried out by professors from the Faculty of Theology of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, who for two years met periodically with forty women belonging to three social organizations, with whom they developed an investigation around the contextual reading of this passage.
“We work with Huellas de Arte, a group of p people living and living with HIV. Most are family women infected by their partners. We also involved Dreams Without Limits, a group of women who practice prostitution. And to Leaders of the Alliance, a group accompanied by the Community of the Adoring Sisters (and whose members) were in the world of prostitution and are now in a stage of resignifying their lives”, explains researcher José Luis Meza Rueda.
With the three groups of women, the Didaskalia research group worked on the story of Judges 19 from a contextual reading, that is, interpreting this passage from both the historical context in which it was produced as well as from the life story of each of the participating women.
“There are two ways of doing theology: one from the desk, where, as the Latin American theologian Pedro Trigo says , ‘I read 50 books and then I produce the 51st book’, but I don’t leave my study. The other way, starting from reality. In this I can do from faith a contextual, historical, embodied and public reading of what happens to men and women today. It is a theology that is interested in the problems of people, communities and what they are experiencing. And looking at these three groups of women, there was a contribution to be made at the theological level, working with them”, says the researcher.
March in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The study was carried out using the participatory action research (PAR) methodology, which seeks to transform the social reality of the communities involved.
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For Professor Meza, this change occurred through a process of ‘awareness’, which women named as self-agency or empowerment.
“When they said: ‘Ah, I already realized it!’, ‘I didn’t know that I had the right to…!’. That is empowerment. ‘I can live without being subject to anyone’, ‘this is worth it, life does not end there’. Phrases like these reveal that change”, she explains.
“For me it was an interesting experience because one of the things we said was that female empowerment is not a tool that other people bring you, but that it is built” , comments Laura Algarra Gil, a member of Huellas de Arte.
For her part, Mayerline Vera, director of this same organization, highlighted: “I had a predisposition to think that there was indoctrination from the biblical reading, but it was a beautiful process. We do not feel like a ‘research object’ but as participatory subjects of the investigation. In the discussions both technical knowledge and knowledge of everyday life had value. It was an exchange of knowledge.”
The reading of Judges 19 involved activities, readings and reflections on this crude and violent story. Meza explains that one of the questions the participants were asked was if they knew stories similar to those of the concubine. This led them to share stories about other women and about themselves in which they had been victims of violence by their partners. In some cases the stories were mixed with drug addiction, disappearance and femicide.
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“It marked me that Within the reflections that we made, personal experiences of the compañeras arose. In the organizational processes of struggle, to put it in some way, we know each other and there is trust, but with that reading exercise, experiences emerged that we had not shared before, that we had left aside”, comments Laura, adding: “There are many things behind the work of social causes and it is to stop and look at each other: help each other, identify whether the other needs something or not, pause, look at each other in detail and look at the other as a woman, as a partner, as a friend”.
‘I can live on my own account’
Another key ingredient of the research process was the productive projects that the women proposed and developed in the last phase, called ‘transformation proposal’, with which they proposed making concrete changes in their realities.
“In this phase, women reach conclusions such as ‘I can live on my own’ or ‘I don’t have to depend on someone’. One of them, for example, knew how to make muffins, but she considered it a hobby. In the process, she realized that they were very good. Now he is living from that productive project”, recalls Meza.
Among the things that the researcher highlights is that in the processes developed through the PAR, the transformation occurs in two ways, that is, the researchers live their own transformation.
“In the end a bond was forged with all three groups. I was in charge of the work with Huellas de Arte and a very nice relationship was formed with that group, we even continue to support some of their events”, she commented. About this link, Mayerline adds: “There was an exchange of values ??such as friendship, kindness, in one way or another, tenderness and respect. It allowed me to understand that getting to know others and exchanging is worthwhile and that research is not a squared thing.”
Finally, when inquiring with Professor Meza about the great challenges facing theology today and the academy, pointed out that, if it wants to be relevant, it must work seriously with the impoverished and marginalized of our time: displaced persons, peasants, ethnic and sexual minorities, reintegrated, migrants and youth, among others.