Third Cohort of Masters Students to Graduate from Exciting Interdisciplinary Programme
Seven master’s students from the Gender, Religion and Health Programme (an exciting interdisciplinary programme launched in 2013) recently graduated with their Masters in Theology (Gender and Religion) or Master of Arts (Gender and Religion) degree in a programme managed by Professor Sarojini Nadar and Dr Fatima Seedat at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics.
The newly introduced Masters of Theology and Masters of Arts degrees in the GRH Programme emphasise the links between gender religion, and sexual and reproductive health rights. Students examine faith-based gender ideals, customary practices and traditional gender norms while reflecting on the gendered nature and practice of religious traditions. Students also gain the opportunity to explore how religion shapes everyday beliefs about gender difference.
Rev Forbes Maupa, amongst the students to graduate from the programme said, indicated that his work as a priest and his ideas as a feminist influenced the area in which he chose to study.
Maupa’s research was titled “Discursive representations of gender based violence in a synod resolution of the Anglican Diocese of Natal October 2013”. He explored the Anglican synod as a religious and legal space related to but independent of state law while investigating how the resolution made by the Anglican synod in Natal in October 2013 was formulated, what could have influenced it from church and society and how it might have been implemented.
His research further shows that the Anglican Church through synod 2013 responded to the Anene Booysen gang rape and murder but also failed to address other forms of gender based violence many of which are systemic to the church itself. He believes that such violence may also be located aspects of theology, liturgy and iconography of the church.
Another student Dr Mariam Khan, a Natural Medicine Doctor in the field of Unani-Tibb, looked at “Negotiating between health-based contraceptive concerns and piety: The experiences of Muslim wives”. Khan explained that the purpose was to understand the lived experiences of South African Muslim women negotiating between their health-based contraceptive concerns and their pietistic concerns to observe God’s will through the course of being good wives.
Khan said, ‘My study emerged from a gendered reading of a case study in a book authored by a Durban-based scholar. I was interested in understanding how the discursive construct of gender and agency present in the legal text and other literature with similar popular appeal, impacts the contraceptive decisions of Muslim wives.’
The findings of her study indicate that a sample group representative of South African Muslim wives did not perceive themselves to be negotiating between health-based contraceptive concerns and piety.
‘Contraception is viewed in terms of the practical considerations of health and is unrelated to their pietistic concerns to observe God’s will. Instead, these South African Muslim women respond to moral conflicts by prioritising domestic responsibility and sexual availability to their spouses irrespective of personal desire. These considerations more than contraceptive concerns are determined by the need to acquire God’s favour through the observance of divine commands,’ she explained.
The other students who graduated from the programme, together with their dissertation titles are listed below:
Farhana Ismail: “An analysis of the discursive representations women’s sexual agency in online fatwa sites: A case study of askimam.org” Supervisor: Dr F. Seedat.
Francoise Sahabo: “An Analysis of the perceptions of African Christian men regarding family planning choices at “Paran Pentecostal Church” in Durban”. Supervisor: Dr J. Muthuki.
Martha Mapasure: “The Roman Catholic Church and contraception: Exploring married African Catholic women’s engagement with Humane Vitae”. Supervisor: Professor S. Rakoczy.
Maryam Bodhanya: “Women’s health-seeking behaviour in the context of sexual violence, sexual health rights, and the Muslim community. A case Study of Hope Careline Counselling*”. Supervisor: Dr S. Reddy.
Tania Owino: Mediating human rights and religio-cultural beliefs: An African feminist examination of conceptualisations of female genital cutting (FGC) in the United Nations Children Fund—UNICEF Documents (2004–2014) Supervisor: Professor S. Nadar.
Sibongile H. Moyo