Pull out this poisonous weed

On the International Day for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, Pope Francis says this plague must be rooted out from society, and calls for educational action that places the dignity of every person at the centre.

Dec 01, 2023

Demonstration in Madrid on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (ANSA)

By Lisa Zengarini
As the world marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, Pope Francis reiterated his urgent call for tangible action to eradicate this scourge, especially through education.

“Violence against women is a poisonous weed that plagues our society and must be pulled up from its roots," the Pope wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday.

“These roots grow in the soil of prejudice and of injustice; they must be countered with educational action that places the person, with his or her dignity, at the center," he said.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women has been observed annually since 1981. The observance, which marks the start of 16 days of global activism, calls for global action to increase awareness, promote advocacy, and create opportunities for discussion on challenges and solutions.

Violence against women and girls remains one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations in the world. It is often perpetrated within the family; estimates say that a woman is murdered by a partner or family member every 11 minutes.

According to the most recent UN data, globally, over 700 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their life.

The phenomenon has intensified in various settings, including the workplace and online spaces, and has been exacerbated by post-pandemic effects, conflicts, and climate change.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in armed conflicts where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war and is also rife in refugee camps.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to combating and preventing gender violence and offering support to victims.

"The Church has the task of remaining close to women who are victims of violence and exploitation," he said, “and such closeness can be expressed in many ways: from providing safe housing for victims of violence, to psychological and spiritual support so as to help the victims themselves to overcome the trauma and report the abuse.”

Echoing Pope Francis’ words, Cardinal Farrell noted that a key aspect is also education towards respect for women, “which begins with recognizing the problem within families and Christian communities as well.

“Educating people about affectivity, love, respect for others, and first of all for their own lives, which is so necessary in preventing violence against women, is strongly and deeply rooted in the gospel," he said.

Cardinal Farrell, therefore, urged all Churches around the world to take action “to provide families, youth, engaged couples, and communities with educational pathways aimed at preventing violence against women.”

“This is a pastoral responsibility," the Cardinal concluded, “in which the Church's vocation to be an instrument of peace is manifested.”--Vatican News

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