By Jasmine Obeyesekere Fernando

Scars Across Humanity: A Discussion Guide

Did you know that, globally, “acts of violence towards women and girls between the ages of fifteen and forty-four cause more deaths, disability and mutilation than cancer, malaria and traffic accidents combined?”

In Scars Across Humanity, Dr. Storkey compassionately demonstrates what gender-based violence looks like on the bruised bodies of real girls and women around the world. She shows that women are vulnerable to violence during their entire lifetime, offering rich insight and first-hand experiences gained from her extensive travel.

Dr. Storkey is a sociologist, philosopher and theologian who has held multiple university positions. She succeeded John Stott as the Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. She served as the President of the UK aid and development agency Tear Fund for 17 years. She was honored as the recipient of the 2016 Kuyper Prize from Princeton Theological Seminary for excellence in reformed theology and public life.

Scars Across Humanity was awarded the Christianity Today 2019 book of the year on politics and public life. 

Interested in hearing from the author herself? Listen to our bookclub conversation with Dr. Elaine Storkey through our podcast.

Chapter 2: Selective Abortion

  1. Why is violence against women considered normal and culturally acceptable?
  2. How did the readings impact you? Why?
  3. Why are girl children not wanted? How can families change attitudes towards girl babies?
  4. How do you respond to the reality of mobile ultrasound machines being available in remote villages with electricity only to operate the machines? What do you feel about the role of GE and Google?
  5. How can we hold to account the multiple parties who are morally culpable in endangering the lives of unborn girls?   
  6. How might discussing the particularities of abortion in India impact your conversations with colleagues?

Chapter 3: Female Genital Mutilation

  1. How do you respond both to the statistics and the procedures of FGM?
  2. Why does female genital mutilation take place? How can FGM be combatted?
  3. What can we learn from the Kenyan church’s experience in dealing with female circumcision in the early 20th century? 
  4. How do you respond to the difference in the ways in which the UK and France tackled FGM?
  5. Should the local community interfere in cultural practices of immigrant communities? If no, why not? If yes, when and how?
  6. How do we respond to Muslims who are against FGM in its more invasive forms, but who defend "female circumcision" by which they mean its least invasive form? 

Chapter 4: Child marriage 

  1. What is your response to the sheer numbers of child marriage globally? How do you feel about the reality of child marriage in the USA? 
  2. What did you think about the types of legislation that are being made in several countries to allow child marriage? Why do you think there is resistance to see child marriage as a problem?
  3. What actions could be taken to reduce child marriages?

Chapter 5: Honor killings

  1. How do you react to the reality of honor killings, some occurring at our doorstep?
  2. How do we attempt to understand ideas of ownership and control over the lives of children, particularly daughters?
  3. How can assumptions of ownership be changed?

Chapter 9: War and Sexual Violence

  1. How do you respond to the reasons why women are subject to sexual violence in war?
  2. Why is it that women are blamed for being victims, when it seems obvious that what happens is not their fault?
  3. How can young girls raped in war be supported over the long term?

Chapter 6: Domestic Violence

  1. Elaine Storkey states that “at its core it (domestic abuse) happens because an abusive person chooses to behave in a way that gives maximum power over the other. The abuser deliberately acts to dominate and control.” What is your view of the abuser?
  2. Why is there stigma associated with domestic violence in the US?
  3. Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
  4. How can we recognize and respond to signs of domestic violence?

Chapter 8: Rape

  1. How do you respond to the mental thought process of victims of rape/sexual assault? Why is confusion a huge part of their feelings?
  2. What constitutes rape culture? How much of this do you see in your own society? What measures can we take to change this culture?
  3. How do you respond to the huge incidence of rape in the United States?  How do you especially respond to rape on college campuses?

Chapter 7: Trafficking & Prostitution

  1. What do you feel about the idea that “sexual exploitation eroticizes women’s inequality”?
  2. Do you agree with the links that Elaine Storkey makes between trafficking and prostitution? Why/Why not? 
  3. How can we safeguard young vulnerable women from being trafficked?

Chapter 11: Patriarchy and gender-based violence

  1. How can we fight assumptions that gendered violence is "unproblematic" so long as a society is "functioning"?
  2. What are the cultural processes of socializing people into attitudes and expectations that shape and reinforce gender roles?
  3. The author says that “it is in this combination of gender constructions, social expectations, and economic and cultural vulnerability that violence against women receives its meaning and explanation.” (page 182) How do you respond?
  4. How do you respond to Storkey’s synopsis of feminist social science — about gendered social reality, acceptance of male predominance, and attitudes about sexuality contributing to increasing women’s vulnerability to violence? (page 183)
  5. What are examples of patriarchal constructs of "masculinity" or "femininity" that have adverse implications in real life? How do we resist patriarchal cultures and traditions?

Chapter 12: Religion and Women

  1. From a western secular standpoint, what might be some difficulties in understanding how religion shapes people’s ideas and lives? 
  2. In what ways have you encountered Islam?
  3. What did you learn about another/other religion(s) that was new to you, especially in relation to gender? What ideas made the most impression on you?

Chapter 13: Christianity and Gender

  1. What are the questions you have had in relationship to gender and Christianity?
  2. What forms of gender inequality do you see in the Church today? What are the reasons for them?
  3. What is the main form of gender-based violence within Christianity today and what do you think are the reasons for it?
  4. How do our assumptions of what the Bible says about women shape our understanding of God?
  5. Did revisiting the O.T. texts of terror, passages from Paul & Peter, and examining other parts of the Bible with Storkey help in your understanding that the texts themselves are not biased against women? If yes, how? If no, why not?
  6. Despite women’s largescale invisibility, what encouraged you about women’s leadership in global church history?
  7. In what ways have we been addressing gender inequality in the Church today? How can we improve this?
  8. How can we dialogue with women colleagues who think that the Biblical God is a misogynist?
About the Author

Jasmine is WSAP’s book club host and vocation specialist. She hails from Sri Lanka and has a thirty-year relationship with its national university ministry, the Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS). She has also been involved with InterVarsity for twenty years. She has a BA (Hons.) in English from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and a MA in International Relations from Syracuse University. She loves writing about theology impacting real life and enjoys British, Korean, and Chinese drama. Jasmine lives in upstate New York with her professor husband and two teenage children.

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