MORE often than not the saving grace that missionaries offered to Papua New Guinea’s tribes was balanced by cultural destruction, sequestered land, diminution of sustainable lifestyles and, to some degree, retarded capacity to think and make decisions.
I have a theory that one origin of women's disempowerment worldwide is religious teaching, and probably the notion of religion itself.
No matter how innocuous or enlightened religious teaching may be, its foundational precepts seem flawed where women are concerned.
Think of it, most creation legends of so-called less sophisticated tribal belief systems often included both male and female progenitors.
And, for the most part, they were polytheistic or believing in the spirituality of creatures, objects and places.
All right, perhaps today’s modern thinking makes us laugh at these ideas now, but take a step off the beaten path and find yourself alone in the bush for a few days and you’ll very soon come to terms with your own spirituality or lack of it.
Back to my theory about women’s disempowerment.
Christianity and Islam, the two big guns, teach the mystery of creation by the Word of God - a monotheistic belief in one sexless creator.
Islam, in essence, ignores women and where women figure they tend to be marginalised or subjugated entirely.
Christianity on the other hand is more subtle – promoting Mary as The Virgin Mother and relegating Magdalene to prostitution.
Poor Eve was apparently an afterthought, and also had the dubious qualification of being the first woman ‘born of a man’.
Interestingly, the Hindu pantheon contains thousands of gods and goddesses which have both male and female avatars.
As for Buddhism, thousands of men living alone from childhood in close quarters with fellow monks and usually in isolated environments. Exchanging the marital arts for the martial arts.
It’s only comparatively recently that secularism seems to be exerting influence on these major a.
I have this suspicion that women’s roles and responsibilities in traditional PNG took a sharp downward turn after the arrival of missionaries.
Perhaps the introduction of the meri-blouse to hide the body of the ‘uncovered village maiden’ was more than an attempt at modesty or to keep philandering white husbands out of temptation's way.
Maybe it was a symbol of a culture also to be hidden, if not buried.