Redeeming Gender Imbalances: How Biblical Interpretation Can Affect Women’s Health in Indonesia
Several health indicators suggest that the level of women's health globally remains poor. Indicators such as maternal mortality, domestic violence, and stunting, particularly in Africa and Asia, are also linked to poor women's health. There is evidence that the poor quality of women's health parallels the prevalence of gender imbalance. One system supporting gender imbalance is the subjective interpretation of normative gender relations. To address this issue, this qualitative study makes use of the approach developed by Joan W. Scott covering four dimensions of analysis: symbols for both sexes in a culture, normative conceptions that follow these symbols, gender division, and subjective identity. This subjective research took place in the island of Nias, Indonesia where Christianity is the primary religion. The result of this study shows that certain interpretations of biblical verses have negatively impacted women, such as women being considered inferior to men, experiencing loss of opportunity to maintain health due to excessive work responsibilities, and risking mental and physical violence. Certain interpretations of biblical verses are believed and accepted as an absolute and fixed self-identity for Christians. An analysis of gender roles using an approach offered by an historian like Joan W. Scott accurately explains the power of religion-based symbols and norms in maintaining gender imbalance, which in turn, affect women’s health. A way forward is suggested to expand biblical interpretations which could increase equality and improve women’s health.
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