01/10/2013, 00.00
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Card. Gracias launches Day for equality between men and women

by Card. Oswald Gracias
The Archbishop of Mumbai has declared January 27th a Day of Solidarity for justice, awareness and gender equality. The Catholic Church's role in education, especially among non-Christians, fundamental to changing the mentality and attitude towards women. Discrimination against women has negative effects on boys and men.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - January 27 next, the Archdiocese of Mumbai will hold a Day of Solidarity for justice, awareness and gender equality, commissioned by the Archbishop, Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops' Conference of India. The decision was taken after the rape case in New Delhi, that has rekindled the debate on violence against women. It is "the exclusion of God from human life" that leads people to "every kind of cruelty", in particular against women. For 24 hours, the Catholic community in the Archdiocese will participate in meetings, seminars and various initiatives. In addition, every parish, convent and seminary will hold an hour of prayer, from 6pm to 7pm in the evening. Card. Gracias hopes that the day will "announce a social transformation", because "contempt" against women has many faces - selective abortion, female feticide, discrimination, domestic violence and exclusion - and "causes great injury to men and society". Below, we publish a reflection by Card.Gracias to present the Day.

The "marginalisation of God" in human life leads to all kinds of  evil, women are objectified and treated as second class, and the contempt for women" expressed in various forms: selective abortions, female foeticide, discriminations, domestic violence and exclusion.

The Catholic Church in India was plunged into deep anguish and sorrow at the death of the gang rape victim, the savagery inflicted upon this young Indian woman was  horrific and barbaric and I am hopeful, that this Day of Solidarity will serve to usher in a social transformation and a  radical change in the attitudes towards women and call for an urgent Gender Sensitisation  and Gender Justice and Gender Equality in  the nation.

Gender equality is a burning issue of all times. It affects not only the fifty percent of women but all of humankind. Gender inequality has done immense harm to women and  also men and society.

The culture of domination, marginalization and exclusion which embodies ideas, beliefs, values, traditions, rules, norms, perspectives (ideologies) that prefer males/sons has been styled the culture of patriarchy. Through dominating social structures men own, control and manage financial, intellectual and ideological resources as well as the labor, fertility and sexuality of women, and thus perpetuate gender discrimination. Such a culture produces stereotyped notions of how a woman or man should behave (in words and actions), whereby they themselves become transmitters of the above value system. Consequently women also become both victims and victimizers.

Gender Justice and Gender Equality are part of the ethos of the Church, the Bishops of India in 1974 promised that they would stand for the dignity and rights of women by providing education and empowerment. 

In 1984, the CBCI initiated Consultation on Women keeping in mind the need to overcome the cultural bias against the girl.

In  2009, the 'Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India' was issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) called for the  Church to be gender-sensitive at all times and this policy is Operative in every diocese and parish in India.

The Church has been a Vanguard in the empowerment of women, Pope John Paul II landmark apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem in 1988 specifically  on the Dignity of women reminding us of the important role woman play in the family, society , world and also  church

The socio-cultural situation of women should not be understood in the same way among all social classes and ethnic groups especially among the marginalised and the oppressed. It has its lights and its shadows. Though we have examples of empowered women in leadership positions and role-models like Blessed Mother Theresa and Blessed Alphonsa, nevertheless the reality of women of all sections reveals instances of domestic and societal violence on young girls and women. Depending on the regions, female feticide, infanticide, rape, molestation, kidnapping, abduction, battering, dowry deaths, murdering, trafficking for sex and slavery exist even today.

Women of the marginalized groups such as dalits, tribals, backward castes and minorities suffer much due to poverty, ill-health, lack of access to literacy and appropriate knowledge and lack of hygiene and potable water. In addition, they are being displaced from their lands and livelihoods. They suffer systemic and structural violence that enslave them and dehumanize them economically, socio-politically and religio-culturally.

Gender discrimination has negative effects on boys and men as well. It damages their psyche and increases the incidence of morbidity and crime among them. Relations of distrust, conflict, competition and many forms of subtle abuse emerge instead of those rooted in values of caring, sharing, compassion, mutual respect, collaboration and partnership. Such discrimination thus has negative consequences on human relations.

The process of globalization which is market-centered and profit-driven, leads to further exploitation of women as cheap labour resulting in the increasing pauperization of women.

Fundamentalism and communalism reinforce the subjugation of women to men, suppress women's movements by dividing women along religious lines and intensify violence against women.

The Church has been spearheading several initiatives to bring about positive changes in the life situation of women and girls. From the time of the early Christian missionaries who placed emphasis on the education of both girls and boys, through its multiple interventions in the fields of welfare, education, health and the empowerment process to organize women, the Catholic Church has played a prominent role to improve the status of women.

The Church in India has been striving to impart this all-round formation in various ways and various fora. In a special way, the Church is doing so through her network of educational institutions. At present, the Church conducts 20,370 educational institutions in India. According to statistics available to us from a recent survey conducted in preparation for the CBCI Meeting, 58.5% of these institutions are in the rural areas and 54.4% of students in our institutions are girls. It is significant that the vast majority of our students are children of other faiths. By imparting a sound character formation and by striving to promote harmony, understanding and a quest for excellence through our educational institutions, the Church renders a service not only to Christians, but also to the nation as a whole.

Every Catholic educational institution has a special concern for the marginalized, especially the girl-child.

The attitudinal change is required to bring about Gender Equality and Gender Justice and we hope that this Day of Solidarity will make an impact on the city of Mumbai, the State and all over the nation and usher in a change for the good in the empowerment of women, Gender Justice and Gender Equality."

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Education as a weapon to boost women's dignity
Women, like Mary, to save the world, says Cardinal Toppo
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