A feminist critique of ecumenical bodies’ silence to the sexual abuse of the women with mental disability in Zambia.
The study analyses how the three ecumenical bodies (the church mother bodies) – the Council of Churches in Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Zambia Council of Catholic Bishops – respond to the sexual abuse of women with mental disability or illness through sexual and gender-based violence activism. In the Zambian context like elsewhere, ecumenical bodies and gender activists have been active in addressing all forms of gender-based violence, as part of their response to social justice. However, there seems to be little or no attention paid to women with mental disability who are equally victims of sexual abuse. This study aims to reflect theologically on the silence of the ecumenical bodies to the sexual abuse of women with mental disability in Zambia using feminist lenses to analyse the study. The study is framed within the social constructionist and feminist disability theory theoretical frameworks. The study is qualitative, non-empirical, and literature-based. The findings of this study show that although the ecumenical bodies are involved in social justice/gender-based violence activism, in all their joint statements, there is no mention of advocacy for women with mental disability who are also victims of sexual abuse. The study also observed that there are robust religious and cultural beliefs and attitudes towards disability in general which have led to the dehumanising, devaluing, discrimination, rejection, stigmatisation, and marginalisation of persons with disabilities. For instance, the social construction of “ishilu”1 in society removes the human dignity of a person – implying that they no longer are the image of God, since the image of God seems to be associated with the normal people in society. The study thus recommends the theory of change in the operations of the three ecumenical bodies concerning their approach to their fight for justice for all humanity.
Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.