Chapter & verse: Judges 19:20-29
Eve Parker highlights violence against women
You’ll not often hear a sermon about Judges 19 – which includes a grotesque, violent rape and murder. But then church is not often used as a space to reflect on rape, human trafficking, sex work and exploitation, which is interesting given that the God of life is present in all lives – not just the so-called ‘decent’ lives. Why do we find silence in the face of such narratives?
I have spent time with girls and women in south India who have been forced into sex work from a young age. Their bodies were brutally violated and trafficked because of their caste, poverty and gender. During my time in Andhra Pradesh, I met Preci – a Dalit woman who had been dedicated to the goddess Mathamma as a child because she was sick with small pox. As a sacred sex worker, she was raped by the high-caste men in her village. Her body was considered both sacred and available for violation. At the age of 17, Preci was trafficked into the city where she experienced further violence. When I met her, she had become a Christian and yet the Church did not allow her to attend services because they considered her a ‘prostitute’ – she existed on the outskirts of society, her body riddled with disease, malnourishment and suffering.
In the story of the so-called ‘concubine’ of Judges 19, the woman’s narrative becomes what her oppressors want it to be. Throughout the text, this woman remains nameless and voiceless. Like Preci, she is on the outskirts of society. For her to speak would defy her status as property, and so she remains invisible to the hospitality that is only offered up to the men of the text. …
Eve Parker is the United Reformed Church Programme Officer for Global and Intercultural Ministries
This is an extract from an article that was published in the September 2017 edition of Reform