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News 07 May 13

Macedonian Bishop Blames Women for Failed Marriages

Human Rights activists have condemned a leading Macedonian Orthodox bishop for blaming the increased divorce rate on women trying to be equal to men.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Bishop Petar of MPC

Macedonia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and a coalition of NGOs standing for rights of marginalized communities said Bishop Petar’s remarks undermine the constitutional equality of women and their right of choice.

Commenting on statistics showing that the trend towards an increase in divorces continued in 2012, the Bishop said that “Many marriages unfortunately fall apart because of vanity, because [both partners] want to be in charge, forgetting that the man is the head of the household and the woman is subordinate to the husband.

“This is not in the sense that she is deprived of her rights," he added. "She enjoys even greater rights than the husband, because she is the one who raises the children and she is the soul of the family.”

Commenting also on abortion, the Bishop of the Prespa - Bitola diocese reiterated the Church’s opposition to it, insisting that the survival of the nation and of the Church was in women’s hands.

“Women will either save or destroy our Macedonian nation and our Church, because what is conceived in their wombs should be born, if we wish to persist,” he said.

The remarks from a senior cleric in the largest religious community in Macedonia have angered human rights activists.

“For a long time, a woman’s role in Macedonia has been portrayed solely as a mother and a wife, which represents breach of equality and direct discrimination against women based on sex and gender,”  the NGOs say in their united response.

They added that “these kinds of calls towards women to return to the traditional system of values and to her social exclusion are nothing else but a degradation of women’s value and of their contribution to society”.

The NGOs said the Bishop had violated the constitutional principles of equality, privacy and a free choice about family life. They added that the statement has also breached the principle of secularity which stipulates a clear separation of Church and state.

They have called the State Anti-Discrimination Commission to take action.

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