GSRP Worldwide | 13 March 2023

Worldwide: A Web of Forces - GSRP Report published in March 2023

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Converts to Christianity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are facing a growing threat, namely coercive control and surveillance through digital devices. According to the sixth annual gender-specific religious persecution (GSRP) report, released on 1 March 2023, everyday items such as smartphones and tablets are being used by families and communities to track and control the daily lives of Christians, especially those of female converts (The Gender Report, A Web of Forces, March 2023).

The March 2023 report includes for the first time GSRP Country Rankings. These rankings complement World Watch List (WWL) research by examining countries where being male or female most shapes the experience of religious persecution, not where persecution scores the highest. Key findings in the 2023 report are:

  • Nigeria, Cameroon and Somalia are the countries where being a female will most shape how a Christian woman experiences religious persecution.
  • Latin America is the region where Christian men and boys face the most multifaceted gender-specific religious persecution.
  • The most deadly-violent region for Christian men is Sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 89% of the global number of Christians killed for faith-related reasons in the WWL 2023 reporting period coming from this region (predominantly in Nigeria).

Gender Persecution Specialist Elizabeth Lane Miller comments: “The deeper dive into digital persecution this year was eye-opening, especially when examining how it’s not just perpetrated by governments, as we can see happens in some countries where state actors use digital technology to surveil and control the lives of citizens in marginalized groups. We’re seeing a growth of family members exerting their control over their female relatives through tracking movements, confiscating their digital items and monitoring web searches. The consequences for these women are often violent and controlling. We often take our privacy for granted: What would it look like for us if we had our web searches and social media accounts regularly checked up on, to then be isolated or punished because we explored a different faith?”

Gender Persecution Specialist Helene Fisher states: “Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right, and it’s violated across many of the countries that we report on. The experiences of Christian men and boys in the WWL countries is shaped by their gender as much as women and girls is, although it tends to be in quite a focused manner, destroying the strengths they represent for their families. … On the other hand, when you factor in the vulnerability of women and girls in male-biased societies, combined with familial expectations and legal restrictions, there is a web of pressures which only gets more complicated if they then choose to leave one faith and convert to another.”

Specific Religious Persecution Analyst at World Watch Research, Rachel Morley, adds: “Being able to look at multiple years of data helps shine a light on the enduring patterns of religious persecution that Christian men and women face. 2023 global GSRP findings are consistent with previous years of GSRP research, with analysis confirming that Christian women face the threat of sexual violence and forced marriage across the highest number of WWL Top 50 countries. The use of sexual violence against female Christians is connected with embedded ideas around female sexual purity, which is intertwined with the violence and discrimination that Christian communities face and often enabled by gaps in legislation. Christian men are more likely to be threatened by physical and psychological violence, and economic harassment.”


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