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Christian and Muslim Faith Based Responses to Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Cape Town: Implications for Development

This sub-project focuses on the responses of Muslim and Christian Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Cape Town, South Africa. It investigates the discourses and interventions of these FBOs and explores how the activities of these organizations contribute to development. Individuals who are sexually abused or exposed to experiences of violence cannot fully participate in community life because of their limited or lack of ability to share energy, ideas, skills, talents, and opinions. Sexual and gender based violence also impinges on societal development and presents a massive hindrance to gender equality. It is worth noting that although men can be victims of sexual and gender based violence, too, they are in most cases the perpetrators of such violence, which is the result of the patriarchal nature of the society in which they live.

This sub-project investigates the impact of FBOs in relation to issues of SGBV and the kind of contribution they make with regard to processes of development as a whole. Given that development is not a monolithic idea, with a universally accepted definition, development is understood in this context as an improvement of wellbeing and social organization, a movement from a worse state to a better one. This project therefore perceives development as a society which is free of gender-based violence and in which every individual has the capacity to contribute to the community’s economic, political and social activities.

The case study of Cape Town is particularly interesting in this regard as incidences of sexual and gender based violence have a strong presence in the city. To explore the role and impact that religion might have on development and the field of SGBV, this project utilizes examples of Christian and Muslim FBOs who directly address SGBV in Cape Town. The main focus of the project is on investigating the specific interventions of FBOs with regard to SGBV, for instance through the provision of shelters to the victims of abuse, and their teachings on non-violent behavior to faith communities through various seminars and workshops. The project conducts an ethnographic field research of three organizations in Cape Town: (1) South Africa Faith and Family Institute, a multi-faith organization which teaches religious leaders and faith communities about SGBV; (2) Ihata Shelter for abused women, a Muslim organization which caters for abused women of all creeds; and (3) St Anne’s Home, a Christian home for battered women and children from all races and religious backgrounds.