“Stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action (SSDDIM) are six related evils that continue to either frustrate or slow down our HIV&AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, and impact mitigation efforts” (Gideon).
Seemingly, it is women who feel the shame and isolation of blame and stigmatisation. Insufficient action on the side of communities does not help purge the pain of SSDDIM.
Active participation and involvement of men such as ministers or pastors, elders, deacons, traditional leaders, political leaders, fathers, brothers and boys is long over due. If men can lead by example, by caring for the sick, caring for women and the girl child, perhaps a transformed and fairly equal society may emerge sooner than expected. The ‘Good Samaritan’ in the Bible (Lk. 10: 25 – 37) went out of his way to help and care for a wounded person. He transported him to a place of care. And he paid for his care – a person he did not know at all. Can’t we take and example?
In a nutshell, this document seeks to address the question of the understanding of what being human is and means. It goes on to make a contribution in discussing issues of various inequalities and injustices continuing in society. In some places scriptural references are mentioned.
Theology of Equality and Gender
Women and men are co-substantial, co-equal and co-existent just as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the God-head in the Trinity. Women and men are created in the image of the same God, as one flesh and one spirit (Gen. 1: 26 – 29; 2: 7, 23). Women and men are made of the same material substance. The choice of gender and human sexuality or sexual orientation is not a human privilege – meaning humans have no privilege of choosing their gender from conception.
Being human precedes what gender people are given from conception. In other words humans are human first before their given gender and sexual orientation. Gender is not essential to being human. All actions and thoughts informed by gender to define what is human are theologically baseless.
Views that gender is worthy of being male against the worthlessness of being female which are informed by traditional culture and theology must be challenged. Men must wrestle with the idea that gender does not define what is human, but the principle of life or the Image of God does. Platforms created for Men’s Forums must take this debate towards the transformation of culture and theology possible.
Gender, socio-political and religio-cultural inequalities
Historical socio-political and religio-cultural inequalities between men and women persist and if society is not transformed these inequalities may continue. In some
societies (e.g. South Africa) means are made to close the gap between male and female inequalities through legislation, political appointments to positions of leadership, education, workshops, dialogues and consultations. In some communities debatable as it might be it is perceived that religion and culture continue to be misused to suppress women (I Cor. 11: 3 – 16; 14: 34 – 35). Women in many cases are excluded in crucial decision making political structures, in churches, in traditional leadership and so on and the scriptures like the ones mentioned immediately above are used to justify the suppression of women in churches, society and governance structures.
“What about gender issues in the time of Jesus? His society was patriarchal; male and female roles were sharply differentiated, with women’s roles centering on the family and home (Eph. 5: 22 – 24). A woman who could not have children felt deep shame as in I Sam. 1: 12. Widows were especially vulnerable. Divorce was easy for the man (icmdahivinitiative. Additions mine).”
“A rabbinical (Jewish religious leaders) custom was to thank God daily, as a man, that you had not been born a woman, slave or foreigner. Religions leaders were not permitted to speak to women in public; religion did not value women’s spiritual contributions. Jesus broke with these assumptions and traditions. He extended honour and respect to all women. Women experienced the power of His miracles. He taught that women were equal to men in the sight of God. Jesus taught that women could also receive forgiveness of sin and the gift of salvation by grace. Jesus taught that women can be his followers and fully participate in the Kingdom (sic) of God. In an era where women could not be legal witnesses Jesus caused that they be his witnesses (Lk. 24: 9 – 11)(icmdahivinitiative. Additions mine)).
Jesus challenged these Jewish religious structures and beliefs. Jesus accommodated women in His ministry and did not discriminate against them. Inequalities between men and women embedded in historical rationale and legitimating male oriented stereotypes must be continually challenged. Men and women must look for better ways of living together in peace, love, harmony and prosperity. Where hick-up come up, both men and women must find constructive and peaceful mans of resolving their differences and challenges.
Theology of care and equal access to opportunities in the context of HIV and AIDS
The manipulation of women by men through control of the means of living must be overcome by empowering women to become economically independent. It is in God’s plan that humanity must work for a living and not be denied the opportunity to do so for both men and women. Structurally, the quest for involvement and activity of women in the mainstream of the economy and meaningful participation of women in political decision making positions is being realised in a visible way. Masculine economic structures must be transformed to accommodate women and their lifestyle. Women must not be disadvantaged in fulfilling their God given way of living. In the Bible there are women who were business people and others exploited by men to make money and they got nothing (see Acts 16: 14 – 22ff).
Men and Unfaithfulness
The perception that men who have many mistresses are heroes while women can not do the same and have praise must be challenged. In the context of HIV and AIDS among many methods of preventing new infections the message of fidelity must go through. We just need to keep on spreading messages of prevention including one of faithfulness. The typical cultural proverbial “Isoka” (a man with many mistresses) must be challenged at least at a debate level and at most at practical level. The Isoka must be isolated and challenged. Those who support the practice of Isoka must loose the debate and be encouraged to seek faithfulness between men and women.
Men and cultural regard of women as Izingane (Children)
The classical categorization of women as children must be addressed in the men and gender theological and cultural debates and discussions. In the world where HIV and AIDS is widespread, men and women can do better by treating each other as adult and behaving likewise and so jointly cooperate in safe sex and together fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS. Persistent has been the cultures and theologies of keeping a woman at her place, in the kitchen. And resilient has been the theologies of ‘a woman is made for a man thinking’. These theologies and cultures promoting the idea of the inferiority of women must be challenged. In the context of HIV and AIDS women must be emancipated to participate in civil life and church leadership structures and have their voice heard when matters of human sexuality are debated and discussed even on an academic level.
Men and Women, Theology of Sex and Sexuality
Infection and being affected by HIV does not remove human sexual desire. People infected and affected with HIV must not be deprived from sexual activity. People infected and affected by HIV must be encouraged to practice safe sex. Human sexuality must be practiced in the best interest of the entire humanity. Sexual activity considering that the whole of the human body is sexual should not be confine to conjugal actions. All human loving and sexual activity must be done with mutual respect and full consent. Men must learn to respects the views and feelings of women when it comes to consensual sexual intercourse (I Cor. 7: 1ff; (5) – do not deprive one another except with consent for a time).
Turning the structures of oppression to become tools of freedom
The idea that men are superior and women are inferior, negative in most cases as it has been when it comes to helping in the fight against HIV and AIDS must be changed to carry positive messages about the pandemic. Traditional structures must be challenged to transform in the age of freedom and human rights; while we do so indeed, the Men’s Forums should be helping men to begin to be positive and helpful in fighting HIV and AIDS as men in leadership today.
Gender Freedom, Human Rights and the Constitution
Especially in the traditionally conservative cultures and theology, it has been muted out that the new Constitution which enshrines the Bill of Rights for all and
promotes equality of men and women before the law and in all walks of life, like access to education and employment opportunities has emasculated men. With more debate and mutual education and enlightenment, men are beginning to realise that some tenets of patriarchal structures were indeed oppressive to women and that there is a need to transform and change for the well being of all. Human rights and the Constitution which promotes equality between men and women must be use effectively to enhance the struggle for the freedom of all human beings. The freedom of men is intertwined with those of women. Without the freedom of women men cannot be totally free (Gal. 3: 28ff – there is no difference between men and female in Christ Jesus).
Freedom of the interpretation of scripture
Women are core players, or fellow players in the game of life and sex. Women are not just victims of circumstances. Women are also making choices in life. In the context of masculinity, men, gender and HIV and AIDS women are making choices as well. Women are bringing their own hermeneutic and value to theology and human sexuality. And the principles of health and healing found in the scriptures hold and are relevant to both our contextual theologisation and evidential findings of empirical scientific inquiry. In summary, clean living, clean behaviour, clean environment, clean water, clean food, clean sex, clean relationships, clean hands, clean clothes an clean habits are a partial answer to the combat of HIV and AIDS”.
On the other hand the interpretation of scriptures has always been for the advantage of men and direct disadvantage of women. Contextual reading of the scriptures changes this male side reading and interpretation. The scriptures must be read with the consciousness and acknowledgement that they are masculine text. Special consideration must be taken to deliberately include women in the reading and interpretation of the scriptures. If such inclusion is not possible such scriptures should be noted as tenaciously masculine.
“The challenge of HIV and AIDS, in inference is related to the texts of disease and healing in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is not the virus nor the syndrome found in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is our modern challenge”. We can only relate the virus and the syndrome in inference to the scriptures. What we are learning here is that we are beginning to do a theology of HIV and AIDS, and care more and more.
Edwards, Phil (2008). How Does Ethics Relate to Theology, Pastoral Care and Current World-view.
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Lester, Andrew D (2005). Angry Christians: A Theology for Care and Counseling. In Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2005 by Clrke, Jody H. Louiseville: Westminister John Knox Press.
Produced by KZNCC Advocacy Office.