What Does the Future Hold for Women?
“THE history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.” Thus read the Seneca Falls, New York, Declaration of Sentiments, penned in America 150 years ago as a protest against injustice toward women.
Progress has undoubtedly been made since then, but as the United Nations publication The World’s Women 1995 states, there is still a long way to go. “Too often, women and men live in different worlds,” it reports, “worlds that differ in access to education and work opportunities, and in health, personal security and leisure time.”
Increased awareness of this has led nations to pass laws to protect the rights of women. But laws cannot change hearts, where the roots of injustice and prejudice lie. For example, consider the plight of girl prostitutes. Newsweek said of this international disgrace: “Legislation aimed at stopping the sexual exploitation of children is well meaning but often ineffectual.” Similarly, law itself does not prevent violence. “Evidence reveals violence against females to be a widespread global problem,” states the Human Development Report 1995. “Most laws are inadequate for stopping such violence—unless present cultural and social values change.”—Italics ours.
“Cultural and social values” are usually based on deep-seated tradition—a hard nut to crack. “Tradition makes men believe that women should be used rather than loved, worked rather than cared for,” says a woman from the Middle East. “As a result, a woman has no voice, no rights, and little chance to improve her situation.”
Educating Husbands and Fathers
The Platform for Action proposed in Beijing, China, by a 1995 world conference on women declared that only “immediate and concerted action by all” can achieve a “peaceful, just and humane world” in which women will be respected.
Any action to make women’s lives more ‘peaceful, just, and humane’ must begin at home, with husbands and fathers. In this regard, Jehovah’s Witnesses are convinced that Bible education is the key to success. They have seen that once men learn that God expects them to treat their wives and daughters with respect and consideration, they take it to heart and do it.
In Central Africa, Pedro, a married man with four children, is now attentive to the needs of his wife. He helps her look after the children, and he even serves the meal when guests eat with the family. Such a considerate attitude is most unusual in his country. What makes him appreciate his wife and cooperate with her?
“When I began to study the Bible, I learned two important principles regarding the role of the husband,” Pedro explains. “They have had a big impact on the way I view my wife. The first, at 1 Peter 3:7, explains that a husband should give his wife honor as the “weaker vessel, the feminine one.” The second, at Ephesians 5:28, 29, says that a husband should treat his wife ‘as his own body.’ Since I have followed that advice, we have become much closer. So we men must attach greater value to God’s counsel than to local customs.”
Michael, from West Africa, admits that before he began studying the Bible with the Witnesses, he did not treat his wife properly. “I even used to hit her when I got angry,” he confesses. “But the Bible taught me that I should change my ways. I now try very hard to control my temper and to love my wife as my own body. And we are both much happier.” (Colossians 3:9, 10, 19) His wife, Comfort, concurs: “Now Michael treats me with more respect and affection than is the custom of most husbands in our community. We can talk about our problems and work together as a team.”
Pedro and Michael learned to respect and cherish their wives because they took to heart the instructions from God’s Word, which makes it clear that injustice to women deeply displeases our Creator.
God’s Concern for Women
God has always been concerned about women and their welfare. Although he told our first parents that because of their rebellion, imperfection would lead to women being ‘dominated,’ this was never God’s purpose. (Genesis 3:16) He had created Eve as “a complement” of Adam and as a companion for him. (Genesis 2:18) In the Mosaic Law, given to ancient Israel, Jehovah specifically condemned the mistreatment of widows and instructed the Israelites to treat them kindly and help them.—Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 24:17-22.
Jesus, in imitation of his heavenly Father, did not follow the widespread tradition of his day that denigrated women. He spoke kindly to women—even those who had a bad reputation. (Luke 7:44-50) Moreover, Jesus was pleased to help women who had health problems. (Luke 8:43-48) On one occasion, when he saw a widow mourning the recent death of her only son, he immediately went up to the funeral procession and resurrected the young man.—Luke 7:11-15.
Women were among Jesus’ early disciples and were the first to witness his resurrection. The Bible speaks highly of women such as Lydia, Dorcas, and Prisca as examples of hospitality, compassion, and courage. (Acts 9:36-41; 16:14, 15; Romans 16:3, 4) And early Christians were trained to show women respect. The apostle Paul told his fellow missionary Timothy to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.”—1 Timothy 5:2.
Women Who Have Found Respect
If you are a Christian man, you will show that same respect toward women. You will never use tradition as an excuse for mistreating them. Respectful treatment of women, moreover, can give eloquent testimony to your faith. (Matthew 5:16) Salima, a young woman from Africa, describes how she benefited from observing Christian principles in action.
“I grew up in an environment where women and girls were treated badly. My mother worked 16 hours a day, but all she got were complaints if something was left undone. Worse still, my father would hit her when he drank too much. Other women in our area suffered likewise. But I knew such treatment was wrong—that it was filling our lives with frustration and unhappiness. Nevertheless, there seemed to be no way to change this state of affairs.
“When I was a teenager, however, I began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was very impressed when I read the words of the apostle Peter, who said that women should be treated with honor. But I thought, ‘It’s most unlikely that people would apply this counsel, especially in view of our local tradition.’
“However, when I went to the Kingdom Hall, where the Witnesses held their meetings, men as well as women treated me kindly. Even more surprising, the husbands among them really cared for their wives. As I got to know the people there better, I realized that this was something that all the Witnesses were expected to do. Although some of the men had come from backgrounds like mine, they were now treating women with respect. I wanted to belong to this large family.”
A Permanent Solution
The respect that Salima observed was not accidental. It was the result of a teaching program, based on God’s Word, that helps people to value one another as God does. This is an indication of what can be done even now and of what will be done everywhere when God’s Kingdom rules over all the earth. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:10) This heavenly government will eliminate all injustice. The Bible assures us: “When there are judgments from you [Jehovah] for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.”—Isaiah 26:9.
Even now, education in righteousness is changing the way millions of people think. When all living humans are subject to God’s Kingdom, this education will continue earth wide and will end men’s oppressive treatment of women, a consequence of Adam’s sin. Jesus Christ, God’s appointed King, will not allow injustice toward women to mar his rule. Describing that rule of Christ, the Bible says: “He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul.”—Psalm 72:12-14.
This series of articles has concentrated on the problems of women. However, it is recognized that many men have also been treated badly. Throughout history powerful and evil men have committed unspeakable horrors against males as well as females. And some women have done the same. For instance, the Bible mentions the shedding of innocent blood by wicked women such as Jezebel, Athaliah, and Herodias.—1 Kings 18:4, 13; 2 Chronicles 22:10-12; Matthew 14:1-11.
Thus, all mankind needs God’s new world, under his Kingdom rule. Soon, when that day dawns, neither women nor men will ever again be discriminated against or treated badly. Instead, each day will be one of “exquisite delight” for everybody.—Psalm 37:11.
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Christian husbands follow Bible guidelines and respect and honor their wives