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Leaders from Britain's biggest religions speak out on violence against women (Press Release 13 July 2015)

Leaders from Britain’s biggest religions to declare violence against women ‘irreconcilable’ with the teachings of their faith

Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu leaders will send a strong message to perpetrators of domestic abuse within their own faiths when they gather at the House of Lords on 15 July to endorse a declaration saying domestic abuse “can never be justified by the teachings of our faith”.

It will be the first time that different faith leaders have stood on the same platform to acknowledge there is a problem of domestic abuse within their own faith communities, and pledge to do something about it.

The group will meet at a House of Lords reception organised by Restored, an organisation campaigning to end violence against women. Restored were given a platform at the 2014 General Synod, where their message that “If 1-in-4 women in the UK experience domestic abuse, then it must be happening in churches too”. Their work has since been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

‘In all faiths in Britain right now, domestic abuse is being committed unseen and unreported. What this declaration says to perpetrators of domestic violence is that we, as faith leaders, will not tolerate it, nor remain silent about it, but, recognising the unique and positive opportunities we have within our faith communities, will challenge abusive patterns of behaviour, whether physical, sexual, psychological or spiritual, that have become too common within our faiths and wider society.’

— Peter Grant, Co-director of Restored —

Shahin Ashraf, of the Muslim Women’s Network, says: 'Women from ethnic minority communities are less likely to report domestic violence to the police, or access help and support, due to additional barriers. South Asian women are often burdened with feeling that the ‘honour’ of the family will be damaged if they speak about their abuse. We must change this attitude. It is imperative that we see a national campaign to raise awareness in our communities offering better frontline services that are faith and culturally sensitive.'

Abdullah Hasan, Chief Imam at Holborn Mosque, says: ‘There are a number of misconceptions regarding domestic abuse and religion in our society. It is the duty of religious teachers to provide clarity and guidance on this issue as well as repel any incorrect beliefs and perceptions people may have about this growing problem.’

Jasvir Singh, Chair of City Sikhs says: ‘Domestic abuse affects men and women of all faiths and backgrounds, and its impact can be felt across the generations. An estimated 1.4m women and 700,000 men were victims of abuse last year according to the ONS. There is much that faith institutions can do to challenge such behaviour and break that cycle of abuse. This declaration is a good first step in acknowledging that the problem exists and that all people of faith have an active role to play in changing society for the better.’

"Violence against women is a shocking reality that has pervaded most human cultures. Whether by ‘turning a blind eye’ or subliminal religious pressure to ‘turn the other cheek’ where Jesus would have confronted an evil, violence against women has been too often unchallenged by the churches. In the name of Christ, who repeatedly defended the dignity of women, every Christian is mandated to speak out against any form of aggression towards women and girls wherever it is found."

— Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry —

The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson says: ‘Violence against women is a human problem, not a specifically religious one. But faith leaders have the potential to be part of the problem or part of the solution. In launching this charter we are pledging to be part of the solution.’

Link to Faith Leaders’ Declaration on Domestic Abuse.

Some statistics

Globally, women between the age of 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data

Domestic violence is the largest form of abuse of women worldwide irrespective of religion, culture, ethnicity, education, class and religion (United Nations)

In the UK, two women each week die due to intimate partner violence (Women's Aid 2010)

Women who are victims of domestic violence are three times more likely to be injured when pregnant (refuge 2007)

In the UK 25 per cent of women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime (Home Office 2007)

The estimated total cost of domestic abuse in the UK economy is around £15.7 billion (Professor Sylvia Walby 2008)

If you feel that you might be in an abusive situation, help is on hand. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or speak to Refuge using their online chat function. You can also get in touch with our Survivors' Network - we're not an emergency service or helpline, but we can stand alongside you as you access the support you need.

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