As democracies emerge in states once behind the Iron Curtain, there’s resistance to the human rights piece, according to documentary filmmaker Marty Pack. “These states are using Catholicism and Orthodoxy as a tool to undermine human rights,” she argues. The particular human rights she’s been investigating through the dual channels of scholarship and filmmaking are those of women.
In her talk “Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Domestic Violence: A Comparative Study of Five Central and Eastern European Countries” on Wednesday, July 13, Pack will share the findings of her master’s thesis, completed earlier this year at Northeastern Illinois University. The brown bag lecture is being offered as part of the programming for the 2017 Summer Language Workshop, in which Pack has been enrolled for Hungarian language instruction. Examining trends in Poland, Moldova, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in her thesis, Pack noted the increasing role played by the church in these emerging democracies, and the political and societal tension resulting from the clash between “old and new ways of looking at family values.
“You need equality for women in order for domestic violence to go away,” Pack asserts. “We know that the different power structures in place right now are not conducive to women attaining equality.” Globally, Pack concedes, treaties and agreements have aspired to a world of gender equity; she points to UN’s Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), the fifth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2016), and the Council of Europe’s Istanbul convention (2011), which provides a practical framework for addressing and reducing domestic violence.
In the countries that Pack studied, however, she found “unfortunately, not a lot of progress has been made.” She attributes the lag to the influence of the church. “There has been a huge backlash since these democracies have come into being because they’re going against the church’s notion of family values. There’s no autonomy for women [in that schema]; it’s all about the family.”
In Hungary, steps toward gender equity have competed with a reassertion of parochial authority. The signing of the Istanbul Convention (formally known as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) notwithstanding, the renewal of Hungary’s Concordat with the Vatican in 2013 enhanced the church’s dominion in the state – resulting in the implementation of religious education in the public schools, for example, and the public subsidization of seminarians.
As the separation between church and state is increasingly blurred, Pack noted, resistance to outside influence has ramped up under the regime of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Legislation passed just month compels NGOS that accept foreign funding to register with the government, effectively stigmatizing those organizations. Domestic sources of funding are inadequate to support many Hungarian educational and social welfare organizations, Pack noted, including NANE – the country’s oldest domestic violence agency – which faces closure as a result.
A victim advocate and a documentary film maker, Pack has witnessed domestic violence in this country first-hand, along with the religious values and legal structures that allow it to persist. Pack’s film Maria’s Story: Undocumented Violence shows how the suffering that a victim of domestic abuse faces is augmented by her undocumented status. The film has been used in educational programs for social workers, and shared with lawyers who work with undocumented immigrants.
The Chicago-based filmmaker has turned her attention to Central and Eastern Europe because she recognizes that ending domestic violence is a global challenge, particularly difficult in countries where democracy is struggling to gain a purchase.
“Women are hurting all over, and I think there is still much needed to be done here in the US,” Pack asserts. “However, I think that these new democracies do not have the support structure or laws or media attention to domestic violence that the US does. It is an incredibly pervasive human rights issue for women everywhere. With my life, what I want to do, is to help with that progression toward equality and lessening domestic violence.”
Pack enrolled in Hungarian language instruction at IU’s Summer Language Workshop in order to facilitate her research and build trust in the subjects whose stories she hopes to tell in an upcoming documentary.
“I think that that connection through language is vital in order to have a full understanding of their story, to be authentic, and to be empathetic. I want them to be able to feel comfortable and safe in order for them to fully tell their story. Because I think fully telling their story is going to help them get over it. They’re going to see that support and that understanding which quite honestly is not given to a lot of domestic violence victims. That’s vital for me. Speaking that same language and understanding that culture is something that’s going to be needed to promote these ideas [of self-empowerment], too, to these women.”
The Summer Language Workshop, administered through Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies, continues through July 28 with a series of films, lectures, and events open to the public.