Conference raises awareness of sectarian abuse in Africa
The Policy Department organized a presentation on April 4 to raise awareness of the abuses seen in faith-based higher education in Africa.
Lady Ajayi, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Politics and a 2021-2022 American Association of University Women International Fellow, created the presentation from research she conducted on faith-based abuse in Nigeria. About fifteen people attended the event, including professors and students.
Ajayi said her research process involves observing and monitoring the progress of the institutions in which she and her colleagues work. Ajayi said this interviewing survivors is the next phase of his research and this she acknowledges that it can be difficult.
According to a 2021 World Health Organization study. The study also revealed that by the age of 24, 1 in 4 women who have ever been in a relationship will have experienced violence from a partner.
“Every day there were several stories of abuse and death in the media,” Ajayi said. “Many studies have looked at the underlying causes of high rates of violence against women and girls, and one of the factors that stood out to me the most in most of the findings is the role of religion and faith in the escalation or reduction of this phantom global pandemic. .”
ajayi said this For decades, cases of sexual violence have been linked to the Catholic Church, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world. Several Christian colleges in the United States have faced sex–abuse reports to like Bob Jones University, Liberty University, Cedarville Universityand Patrick Henry College. Ithaca College, Reverend Carsten Martensen has resigned as Catholic chaplain and campus principal of 2019 after the campus community was made aware of a sexual abuse allegation against him.
“Within Nigerian faith-based institutions, there have been instances of religious leaders abusing their authority,” Ajayi said. “Including BBC Africa’s widely published ‘Sex for Grades’, where one of the abusers was clergy from a religious community. … I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the United States is not exempt from this reality.
In 2019, BBC Africa Eye released a documentary in which undercover female journalists posed as students at the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana. The documentary showed how female reporters were sexually harassed and pressured by lecturers.
“I discovered that these institutions provide a cultural and patriarchal framework of control that influences students, faculty and staff,” Ajayi said. “Beliefs and attitudes about gender roles, relationships and gender balance. It is appalling how such attitudes and beliefs conflict with wider society’s interpretations of rights and security issues.
Ajayi said social media has been a great tool to unite survivors around the world, and cited the #MeToo movement for example, a social movement that worked to expose the crimes of sexual abuse and harassment. It was founded in 2016 by survivor and activist Tarana Burke, but went viral in 2017.
“[The #MeToo Movement] showed victims, survivors of sexual abuse, who had lost hope in institutions, how the social media platform could serve as a safe space,” Ajayi said. “Void of condemnation and judgment. It is a safe space where survivors of abuse can be heard as they share experiences, recount incidents, build community and fight for justice. It is quite fascinating how millions of women and girls around the world use this platform so effectively to expose their abusers and gain support from billions of people around the world.
Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, a professor in the Department of Politics, said this while the use of social media is a tool for survivors to unite, there have been instances where social media has been used against survivors.
“On the one hand, it’s a tool that can be used for support, like when you think of ‘MeToo,'” Soyinka-Airewele said. “But at the same time, we see this decline, very often there is this mobilization of many organizations and institutions. And so when someone speaks up, there’s an intensity of a very vicious cancel culture that goes against the individual.
Cancel culture is a contemporary phrase that refers to when someone is ostracized and receives massive disapproval, usually on social media.
ajayi said this often perpetrators who are connected to the church have a wider circle of support, making it more likely that people will not believe the victims. She said influential social role models play a role in how social media can ultimately benefit authors.
“It’s usually very difficult when a victim comes out to talk with this pastor; having this magnitude [of support] and having branches in different parts of the country…mobilizing together to support their pastor against this victim,” Ajayi said.
Ajayi referred to the fact that male dominance is an intersection found in faith, power and abuse, and that in general women are more often victims than men.
“There are deep-rooted theological constructs of religious authorities and supreme beings as male, hence women, or females, are automatically placed in subordinate roles,” Ajayi said. “As such, patriarchal and religious narratives empower men and subjugate women through indoctrination.”
Sumru Atuk, assistant professor in the Department of Politics, said it was difficult to discuss faith and gender-based violence because people often conclude that religion is the motivation behind violence.
“What I find is that if you use religion and gender-based violence in the same sentence, then…they conclude that it’s just really religious and [that] institutions and structural problems have nothing to do with it [the violence]“said Atuk.