A study to assess the effects of the struggle for gender equality on Catholic Christian marriages : ` a case study '; of Matero and St Ignatius Catholic Parishes, archdiocese of Lusaka
Ngulube, Emmanuel George
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The study investigates whether the struggle for gender equality has in any way affected Christian marriage. Marriage in our society today is facing a lot of challenges despite being a very important social institution upholding family life. Catholic Christian marriage emphasizes submission of the woman to her husband and the husbands to love their wives just as Christ loves the church. Unfortunately some men have used scripture to suppress their wives taking them as mere helpmates without rights. Women's movements call for gender equality seems a challenge to the Catholic Christian patriarchal traditions which are evident in Christian marriage. The question is whether this call for gender equality does affect Christian marriage relations contributing to separations and divorce. The objective of the study was to assess whether the struggle for gender equality does contribute to the escalating marriage problems leading to separations and divorce through exploring relations of dominance in Catholic marriages. The study was undertaken between March and December 2006. The data was collected using both qualitative and quantitative methods from a total sample of 112 people from Matero Parish and St Ignatius Catholic Parishes. Primary data was collected using questionnaire,interview methods and focus group discussions; while secondary data was collected by reviewing books, articles and internet sources. The samples were selected using the simple random sampling methods for questionnaire and purposeful sampling for interview and focus group discussions. Quantifiable data from the questionnaire was analyzed using SPSS while qualitative data was interpreted through descriptive and deductive methods.The study demonstrated that many respondents think that the struggle for gender equality in marriage is unchristian because it challenges the traditional Christian patriarchal attitudes rooted in the scriptures. The awareness for gender equality in many marriages has definitely affected the spousal relations causing power struggle. The majority of the respondents also confirmed that men have self belief, that by nature they have to be heads of the family since the scriptures (Ephesians 5:2230) support their position to be decision makers. Men tend to quote scripture that back their patriarchal dominant attitude whenever they want to justify their suppressive behaviour. The study revealed that the majority of the respondents passed through catholic marriage preparations which were based on scripture message of submission and love of Christ. Women in single sex FGDs revealed that some men usually quote scripture especially Ephesians in order to dominate. The study also revealed that currently women have started challenging their husbands fighting for equality after realizing the true meaning of Gods will in marriage i.e. equality. However, the research showed that some husbands were willing to make decisions in conjunction with their wives after being challenged. Those who are aware of the true meaning of mutual love in marriage and gender equality expressed the need for all relations to be equal/neutral in a family. They counter-reacted to the literal understanding of the scriptures which promote blind submission in marriage calling for clear interpretation of the core of marriage as a union of two people wife and husband in love, with justice rendered to each other in respect of human rights.The study revealed that the Catholic Church in Zambia has a patriarchal Christian culture which is yet to be interpreted in a gender balanced view despite Vatican council II message and John XXIII and John Paul IPs call for priests and church leaders to read signs of the times by recognizing women's rights. Marriage instability has arisen due to sensitization campaign for women's rights calling for equal rights with their husbands. Finally the study called for an urgent need for awareness programs/workshops for church leaders and priests first and then the rest of the people to consider the relationship between gender equality and interpretation of the scriptures.