By V4 Agency
The persecution of Christian women across the globe has increased dramatically, a recent report by Open Doors International has found. The study points out that women in Christian communities are often used as tools in religious persecution. Women are also experiencing a substantial rise in physical violence, forced marriage, and human trafficking.
Global watchdog group Open Doors International has released its 2021 report “Same Faith, Different Persecution” on the persecution of Christian women, pointing out that the persecution of Christians, severely affecting women in Christian communities, is on the rise worldwide.
Women’s potential risk of persecution has steadily increased in the three years since the report was first issued in 2018, the study reveals. Data comes from the 50 countries worst affected by the persecution of Christians and the report is published annually, at around International Women’s Day.
Helene Fisher, a global gender persecution specialist for Open Doors International and one of the authors of the report, told The Christian Post that the increased threat to women is often because women have fewer rights than men in most of the top 50 countries on the World Watch List for religious persecution.
“Because [women] have fewer rights and fewer protections, they’re just an easier target,” Fisher said.
The five most common “pressure points” among Christian women in these countries are forced marriage, sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence and forced divorce. Each category has seen an increase since last year’s study.
90 per cent of the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted report forced marriage as a pressure point, and 86 per cent of countries report sexual violence.
Psychological violence against women rose from 40 per cent in 2020 to 74 per cent to 2021, while the number of forced marriages increased by 16 and physical violence grew by 31 per cent in the countries concerned during the examined period.
The report mentions that women are often used as pawns to target the Christian community. Persecutors often target the daughters of pastors to weaken the core of the church community.
“It is a well-documented fact that rape can be used as a weapon of war,” the report reads. “Women’s bodies essentially become the second battlefield. The ‘capture’ of women in a community demonstrates to the men that they were unable to ‘protect’ them.” The persecutors are seen as ‘dominant’, and Christian communities are weakened.
Extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa often weaponise human trafficking by forcing or seducing Christians into marriage or sexual slavery and converting to Islam. Women who are able to escape their captors often struggle to reintegrate into their home society due to shame, stigma and damaged self-worth.
A young girl said in the report that she had been abducted by Boko Haram and held captive by one of their militants. When she returned home, she was shunned, and the community called her baby “Boko,” after the name of the abducting militia group. This tactic of shame is sometimes part of the extremists’ goal, the report points out.