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Faith and Feminism: Religion, Rights and Violence Against Women in Brazil

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Gender is at the heart of politics and religion (Casanova, 2009; Aune and Nyhagen, 2015). Global processes of female emancipation and ideas surrounding the construction of gender and gender roles have come into conflict with more traditional, religious constructions of gender. Secular and religious approaches to VAW differ in the ways that gender and the family are perceived. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in debates over the help offered for violence against women (VAW). This is especially evident in Brazil, a country with high levels of VAW and ranked 5th in the world for the killing of women (Waiselfisz, 2015). Help for VAW in Brazil is offered by both faith-based and secular organisations, bringing to the fore intense debate over religious beliefs, constructions of gender, and the ways to best address VAW.
This thesis provides analysis of State, secular and Christian organisations addressing VAW. In these centres, women are offered different alternatives, from mediation and family reunification to more radical changes such as becoming feminist activists or embracing religious (Pentecostal) conversion. Contrasting religious and secular views on gender roles and gender relations affect social welfare provision for abused women and the fundamental controversy over the way women’s roles and gender are perceived, impacts abused women’s ability to negotiate violence in their lives. By examining domestic violence centres as disciplinary institutions (Foucault, 1991 [1975]) which mediate poor, predominantly black women’s subjectivity, this thesis argues that these centres produce gendered and racialised forms of subjectivity and reveals that women’s roles are considered crucial to the relationship between urban and domestic forms of violence. Therefore, addressing VAW is deeply political, linked to contested notions of both ‘violence’ and ‘gender’, which ultimately structure the way societies function.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2018

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