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Zulu women, domestic violence and Christian faith : does the church help or hinder the survivors?

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This thesis focuses on the impact of domestic violence upon Zulu women, and the role that the Christian faith plays in both helping and hindering the survivors. Through an examination of the relationship between religion and power, the thesis notes how the Christian faith can work both to legitimize oppressive structures and practices, and to provide a form of resistance or survival in times of difficulty. The way in which the Bible and theology deal with domestic violence is examined from this perspective. The thesis builds upon earlier work on domestic violence and the church done in South Africa by a range of scholars, but provides new insights into the way that Zulu women deal with domestic violence and their relationship to the Christian faith. Research undertaken in Sweetwaters, outside Pietermaritzburg, identified the following eight concerns to be of importance for these women in terms of domestic violence: lobolo and women as property, unemployment and male frustration, alcohol, children and the wider family, the scandal of divorce in the Zulu community, lack of social support, the cycle of violence, and the impact upon women. In terms of their relationship to the church, they saw Christianity as a power that both hinders and helps. In terms of the former this had to do with abusers in church leadership, theologies of blame, theologies of forgiveness, disinterestedness and silence, and sanctity of marriage. In terms of the way that Christianity helps, this has to do with prayer, bible reading, manyano and izimvuselelo. In the final chapter the thesis suggests that if the church is to make a difference in the lives of the women who are facing the experiences of domestic violence, then it needs to both challenge the negative and strengthen the positive. This could involve working with young men, men and perpetrators, challenging culture where it abuses women, breaking the silence, legal education, affirming the spirituality of the women, counseling, networking, economic empowerment, and training manyano leadership.


Thesis (M.Th.)-University of KwaZulu- Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2005.


Theses--Theology., Women--Crimes against., Violence--Religious aspects--Christianity., Church work with women., Family violence--Religious aspects--Christianity., Women--Pastoral counselling of., Church work with dysfunctional families., Women, Zulu--Religious life., Wife abuse--South Africa., Family violence--South Africa., Church and social problems--South Africa.