The Women Doing Theology Workshop of the World Student Christian Federation – Asia Pacific (WSCF-AP) was held on November 13-19, 2007 in Seoul, South Korea on the theme “Women & Sexuality: Transcending Boundaries & Embracing Inclusiveness”.
17 young women from Asia and the Pacific participated in the said workshop, representing the national Student Christian Movements of Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Timor Leste and Thailand. Also there were representatives from SCA, Ecumenical Youth Council of Korea and Hanshin University of Korea. The workshop was hosted by the Korean Student Christian Federation (KSCF).
The intent of the workshop was
Apart from the participants’ sharing of their own stories, we also had Yong Ting Jin – Feminist Theologian and Coordinator of the Asian Women’s Resource Centre for Culture and Theology (AWRC) in Malaysia, HyeRan Kim-Cragg – senior friend of KSCF and visiting professor of Hanshin University, Korea, Michael Wallace – General Secretary of WSCF-IRO, Geneva, and Sunita Suna – Regional Women’s Coordinator of WSCF-AP, Hong Kong, to facilitate this workshop.
Sharing of Her Story was a motivating exercise, which helped the group to discuss/share their own experiences, more confidently, like “how I feel as a woman”. “How do I experience my own body, my own sexuality?” This process also helped them to name the taboo of sexuality from their own context. Ting Jin’s exercise on breaking the taboo of sexuality, helped the group to understand how our body & sexuality belong to someone else – to family, to husband, to the church, to male pastors, to the Bible, to the institutions.
The group exercise on Church, religion, scriptures and sexuality, led them to critically analyse “What do the church/temple, religion/Christianity, Bible/scriptures say to women about sexuality? What are our positive and negative experiences?” Ting Jin explained the relationship between “my sexuality” and “my self” based on the stories. She said, “I’m not totally liberated if you’re not – we need to get liberated together!!”
HyeRan Kim-Cragg’s paper on Women’s Sexuality (Socio-cultural and political implications) covered a range of female sexuality. This also covered the Judeo-Christian and biblical understandings of sexuality, the place of sexual minorities in Asian cultures and other faith traditions. At the end of her session the group could appreciate our bodies and our sexuality.
Re-reading Judges 19 was a shocking and an eye opening experience for the group. What Ting Jin explained was a critical feminist reading of the Bible which goes beyond a woman’s perspective on the text as it was an act of terror and violence on women that the power clash is between men whereby the woman becomes an object/victim.
The Exposure programme: The group went for an ‘exposure’ to two different places to find out how women’s body/sexuality is abused and violated as an object of pleasure.
I – Durebang – “My Sister’s Place”, women living within camp towns [the towns which surround the US military camp in Seoul] – hiring women for prostitution and trafficking of foreign women for the sex industry.
II – House of Sharing (Comfort Women) – The Korean women were used as sex slaves (Comfort Women) during and after World War II, which was occupied by the Japanese Military at that time.
Michael Wallace also led us in a Bible study on partnership between women and men, by discussing on the texts from the model of women and men in partnership (Genesis 16:1-6; Matthew 28:10-10; 1 Samuel 1:1-8; Acts 18:1-26, especially vv 24-26)
Finally the WDT was concluded with the affirmation that we had looked at our stories, the construction of our sexuality from people and forces outside our bodies and how they want to control our sexuality. Therefore we need to deconstruct by breaking taboos then reconstruct our sexuality.
Some excerpt from the reflection of the participants:
“This workshop has helped me to construct my sexuality”. “I want to love myself as a woman”. “I love my personality, no matter how it is in people’s eyes.”
“I feel free by sharing my/our taboos…I realised a lot of things while sharing our experiences as woman.”
“I am perfect the way I am, and no one else has the right to tell me what I should look like.”
“I Love my body and embrace my sexuality the way it is.”
Reporter: Sunita Suna
Regional Women’s Coordinator, WSCF-AP