Persecution of Christian women through sexual abuse and forced marriage has reached the level of a global calamity, according to the watchdog organization Open Doors, all the worse for the way it occurs hidden inside homes in privacy and secrecy.
Religion News Service reports that the group’s 2020 Gender-Specific Religious Persecution Report, which describes persecution of Christian men and women across the 50 countries on the organization’s 2020 World Watch List, asserts that religious persecution is quite gender-specific. Men and women are targeted by different means in nearly all countries studied, with sexual violence against women rampant across all regions.
“No demographic is spared from religious persecution,” said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors. “The research shows that women are specifically targeted by efforts to hijack their faith through forced marriage to a spouse of another faith. Most frequently, however, Christian women are routinely victimized by sexual assault. These egregious abuses are rooted in the belief that a Christian woman is of inherently lesser value than a man or woman of another faith. It’s all in a concentrated effort to take away a woman’s right to make up her own mind.”
The report says that religious persecution of Christian men is overt and visible, taking the form of violence and destruction of property, religious persecution of women is complex, insidious and hidden.
“Though every abuse for the sake of one’s faith is problematic, women and girls are facing the most difficult circumstances because they are often forced to suffer silently. They are hidden in forced marriages or isolated by the lifelong effects of sexual abuse,” said Curry.
For Christian women and girls who have been forced to marry or divorce, the home is not a place of refuge. Instead, it’s a hidden, inescapable source of pressure and violence applied by families to “correct” their choice of religion. Such forms of persecution are often hidden behind the more visible, physical persecution of men, which is more easily monitored and recorded.
Sources indicate the frequency of sexual violence is much greater than the total of officially recorded incidents, leading Open Doors to believe the actual numbers are substantially higher than reported.