Gender in major world religions
Gender in major world religions
The idea of promoting gender equality has always been a slow process. To date, it has not yet unfolded worldwide. However, the process is a lively one, which has made tremendous steps. The incorporation of women into religious groups has gained its momentum in the recent years. It can be evidenced by the recent influence of a feminist voice in the religious groups, including Christianity and Judaism. Women activism in the various religious groups has been further developed to the ordination of women. It has also expanded and encouraged the evaluation of the role of women in Orthodox. It has also created the urge to incorporate feminist ideals as well as an analytical interpretation of religious texts in the church institution.
Feminists are people with a perception that the society is patriarchal. Many of these feminists believe that the religion is male dominated, which has reflected and perpetuated this inequality. Religious beliefs have for a long time carried a patriarchal ideology. This ideology legitimates female subordination. It has ironic that religious organizations are male-dominated, yet women participate in religious organizations more than their male counterparts. Women’s exclusion from the priesthood in many religions is a clear evidence of marginalization of women. Women have also been marginalized in places of worship. For instance, the seating arrangement has encouraged women to seat behind the screens. Men, on the other hand, seat and occupy the central and most sacred places. The participation of women in the places of worship is also limited. In some religions, women are restricted from preaching or even reading sacred texts. There are taboos that perceive menstruation and pregnancy as polluting. It largely has an influence on the participation of women in religious proceedings. For instance, menstruating Islam women are disallowed even to touch the Qur’an.
Sacred texts in most religions feature the mighty works of male gods and prophets. These texts are written, and also interpreted by men. There are stories that largely replicate anti-female stereotypes. For instance, Eve who is one of the characters in the Christian story of creation caused humanity to fall from the grace which resulted in the expulsion of humanity from the Garden of Eden. The religious laws and customs confer many rights to men than women. These are rights regarding access to divorce, how many spouses that one can have, dress codes and many other issues. The influence of religion on cultural norms may have also promoted the unequal treatment of women including genital mutilation. The places of worship function as one of the main socialization agents. The places of worship have not done enough to fight the traditional perception of the women’s reproductive and domestic role. The Catholic Church, for instance, bans artificial contraception. It can be argued that the exclusion of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church is clear evidence about the exclusion of women in Church.
Traditional religion is patriarchal. However, there are ways in which a woman can use to gain freedom. For example, women use religion to acquire status and respect. This is achieved by their participation in private spheres of their homes. Belonging to church groups is a way of empowering women. They can gain influence and power. This is despite the traditional perception that women should not hold the positions of power.
In Christianity, gender role has had significant changes over time, especially the last two Millennia. These changes can be attributed to ministry and marriage. Traditionally, Christianity has given leadership positions in marriage, society and government to men. Due to this powers entrusted to men, women have been rendered submissive and out place in regards to a leadership position in the church and other social institution. The official church leadership positions that require ordination have also had a great contribution to this kind of gender discrimination. Precisely, the Catholics and Orthodox churches and many other conformist Protestants have standing policies that cannot allow the ordination of women to official positions like clergy, deacons, Fathers, Bishop or even Pope. However with developments and access to information, many Christians have developed sense on this kind of discrimination and to date some positions can be assigned to women, to ensure gender equality, though this is faced with opposition from the reactionary and conservative leaders who still cling to old systems of leadership. The majority of Christians are getting to understand that respect and honor to female should be embraced as they were also created alongside men and hence they are both made in the image of God. The Christian believes and Bible readings honor women especially when compared to other regions, therefore unlike the past experiences, women are acquiring leadership positions in the church and are as well involved in decision making. On the other hand, the Bible portrays gender discrimination that has in turn existed to date, in the book of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which argues that women should learn in silence with all subjections. The women were also not allowed to teach or rather offer authority to man instead she should be silent since Adam was created first, and then Eve, and the fact that Adam was not deceived but the woman that was lied to was in the transgression. Most Christian churches have developed various ways of allocating roles to women, for instance, women are only allowed to teach boys and not men, this is seen in Sunday school classes in which most women are left to control. Some allow women to act as assistant pastors, where her duties include counseling, communication, tithe collection and other now- preaching responsibilities. Women with theoretical content are allowed to teach worshippers, especially in the Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary under its old leadership.
The scriptures that contribute to gender inequality should be understood as historical enhancements in the early Christian movements, and so some of the teachings of Jesus and Paul do not fit the current situation in life and so should not be interpreted as valid moral and ethical teachings. Most authors regard discrimination regarding race, gender, and disability as being against the will of God. Therefore, verses in the Bible that contribute to any of this discrimination should be disregarded as perhaps they only applied at the time when this books or scriptures were written but cannot apply to the present era.
It is important to acknowledge the secular standard of employment in the US federal law, at SEC. 2000e-2[section 703] which is about unlawful employment practices. It considers it unlawful employment practice for a potential employer to refuse to hire an individual for his or her race, sex or national origin, color. Or to cause an impact on an employs’ status or classify an employee or applicant for reasons related to sex, gender, religion, color or national status. (Religioustolerance.org)
Preventing women from employment or designation of some duties on the basis of gender are unacceptable according to the majority of American Adults. However, some denominations that still cling to some biblical teachings discriminate women on the basis of gender, and this should change so to fit into the present era where every person despite his or gender has equal rights to employment opportunities
In the Christian scriptures, gender discrimination is also addressed, for instance, Paul as the author of these scriptures he appears to accept the inclusion of women in the roles of teaching and leadership, this indicates a gender equality in Paul’s’ actions. However, his perceptible writing sometimes appears to involve Christian discrimination against women and not allowing them to be part of the major decisions that are made. As it can be seen in Romans 16:7 decline in gender discrimination was indicated in the female apostle, Lunia who was outstanding among the apostles that existed.
In the Book “The Lost Moonflower”, written by Isaac Karoor, the issue of female discrimination is addressed concerning Christian religion. Karror, in his book, emphasizes on the recruitment of women into diaconate, episcopate and priesthood positions, he even referred to the verses in the Bible that address this issue. For instance, he focused on Roman 16:1 and Acts 18:18, just to emphasize on gender equality he integrates various new testaments texts into the divine grace that works through the humans with limited mind and heart. He acknowledges various churches that have embraced the dignity of women and their involvement in leadership positions. However, he points out that the Catholic and Orthodox churches still have cling to traditional gender concept with the reason that only God can judge. Concerning Jesus selection of only male disciples, many churches, and even social institutions attribute this favor for men to what Jesus did. The author points out the difference between those historical records to the globalized world that we are living in today. To book also focuses on the detailed understanding of the personal life of Jesus and His mission on earth, it points out the misunderstanding that have resulted from Jesus’ mission due to the limitations of the human conditions. (Karoor)
Within the Islamic religion too there exist markable differences between the perception of men and women. The Qur’an indicates the equality of men and women in the society, however, in the Qur’an status 4:34, men are regarded as the protectors as well as maintainers of women. This is attributed to the fact that Allah had created man so as he could excel the woman; this is more general as it stated that one was made to excel the other and therefore in the absence of husband a righteous woman should be obedient and guard whatever that Allah orders them to guard. However in the Qur’an the relationship of a man and a woman is limited to their private or family life, therefore in the outside society gender issues are not precisely addressed in the Qur’an. The superiority of men is also rated in regards to his strength as portrayed in the idea that men maintain women. The Islamic Law, also address the social life of both men and women. The Quran however does not describe the role of women, as to being cooking, cleaning or other house chores. (King 300)
However, Muslim countries give diverse rights to women regarding divorce, marriage, civil rights, dress code, legal status based on different interpretation. The major focus of these interpolations is ensuring religious believes are respected. Religion also places Muslim women in various oppressions, for instance, the primary role of a Muslim woman is fulfilling her duties and responsibilities as a wife or mother, though they too have the freedom to work and earn income. On the other hand, men are assigned the responsibility of protecting and financial supporting the wife and entire family. (Avakian 122)
Women are restricted to marrying a Muslim Man while men have the freedom to marry a Muslim, Christian, Sabian and Jewish women. Both genders are not allowed to marry a non-believer. According to Verse 2:228 of the Qur’an, women are instructed to wait for three months if one wants to commit herself to a different marriage agreement. This is to ensure a correct connection of a child with his or her biological father. Gender inequality is noted in the fact that, only men are allowed to seek a marital reunion if a man and a woman desire to restore their marriage. Women are also required to repay her dowry in case of a divorce, but she still should receive financial support from the former spouse if the need arises. The existing financial cycle in the Muslim religion imposes a great benefit to women as her property is protected during and after marriage. (Gulevich and Colby)
Gender differences have also been identified in Buddhism religion. According to the Ajahn Sujatos, every nun was required to bow down to each monk. This is interpreted attributed t the fact that women are inferior and even if they are not honored and respected, for them they had to give respect to Men in the social institution. On the other hand, Diana Paul portrayed the inferiority complex that existed against women. However how men had the freedom to choose how they treated women, though some had a positive attitude towards women they were challenged by those with a negative attitude as they did not have a limit of how they choose to treat these women. A commentator from Pali Canon argued that women were the reason for the downfall of the human race, this can be attributed to the fact that Eve had convinced Adam to sin. These are a misconception as a woman living today should not be punished by what happened in the life history of women at the beginning of human life. (Romberg 168)
The education systems in the world are faced with overwhelming cases of gender inequalities; the discriminated remain faced with many challenges as their future depends on their education level and qualification. Academic performance does not depend on gender, but due to the challenges that learners of different gender face at learning institutions, a gap in have been created. As some women are not well represented in the workforce, their income is also so low, and they end up with poor living standards. For centuries, the issue of institutional sexual discrimination has been authoritatively written or spoken about, as it leads to mixed reactions and Uncomfortable feeling brought about by gender discussions. These discussions are normally not any easy, but they are important as they help us to understand, the source of gender inequalities and can direct us possible solutions. Therefore, it is important to ensure teachers and clergymen are informed about how to prevent gender inequalities in learning institutions. Students should use their differences in gender and background to achieve academic excellence, the policies that run these social institutions and denominations should as well address the issue of gender discrimination (Jeyaraj and Manuel)
Due to gender inequalities among different religions in various nations many women and are unemployed. Since they do not meet the qualifications required by potential employers, women also face the problems of job insecurity since the positions they hold are not professional and inclusive in major decisions, and can easily find a replacement, unlike the men who hold college or university qualifications and hence their job security is guaranteed. Some young girls and boys drop out of school or are expelled since they are not able to conform to the institutions’ religious beliefs and hence can only serve as casual workers, or most probably become unemployed.
Low-income for both genders can also be attributed to religion differences as some companies offers employment opportunities regarding one’s religion hence these affected people opt for low paying jobs that can fit their religion. Some employers do not respect the religion of other workers as they assign them duties even on days or times that they should be spending in their respective worship places they workers, therefore, opt to change their working places so as to fit their religious demands despite the fact that they end up receiving lower incomes. Feminine discrimination whereby women receive low incomes than men despite the fact that they perform the same task as also been reported in many companies most American countries have made significant steps in their fight for gender equality, women are given equal opportunities regarding access to education and co-curriculum activities, they, these countries have therefore experienced good economic progress, and they have greatly minimized unemployment level, low income and uneven workforce representations concerning gender and religious segregation.
Eradication of gender discrimination in various regions in the world requires various levels of systematic and cultural approach. First and foremost, the leadership in both religious and governance must show its commitment to this fight. They must have the skills and will to eradicate gender inequality and the knowledge to do away with the factors contributing to it. They should lead the fight against structural practices that cut off a certain gender at any opportunity.
Almost all approaches to religious reforms call for the attention of leaders. Their role can create effective and sustainable change in the religious system. The leaders must start by demanding exemplary expectations all genders. They must eradicate the ideology of rationalizing the failure of some people to their gender. Some writing in religious books that promote gender discrimination should be done away with, despite the due respect that should be given to them. Both the members of religious systems should understand that the writing on those books only applied to the time when the book was written, and over time the present era has no room for some of the documented historical facts. (McPhillips 160)
Leaders must ensure that the assessment of the fight against gender discrimination is effectively carried out. The move will create a climate of exemplary performance and achievement for the teams whose role is to achieve gender equality. The assessment should also be monitored and evaluated so that they are in line with the set goals and that they ensure high performance for all. The government leaders should also have a dialogue with other leaders from various religions so as to come up with better and workable solutions.
Religious leaders and members should also reject practices that promote gender inequalities in education. The political leaders must also join in the fight and advocate for the end of such these practices. All these stakeholders in the religious sector must stand for genuine reforms. The genuine reforms promote access to standard education. The reforms must assure the equitable access of employment opportunities, quality schools and programs for all genders.
A million steps start with a single step, the reforms made in most Christian churches have led various ways of allocating roles to women, for instance, women are only allowed to teach boys and not men, this is seen in Sunday school classes in which most women are left to control. Some allow women to act as assistant pastors, where her duties include counseling, communication, tithe collection and other non- preaching responsibilities. Women with theoretical content are allowed to teach worshippers, especially in the Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary under its old leadership. Developments in this direction are likely to lead to gender equality in religious systems and other social institutions and, therefore, they should be embraced.
Avakian, Sylvie. ‘Women In Lebanon: Living With Christianity, Islam, And Multiculturalism’. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 26.1 (2014): 121-123. Web.
Gulevich, Tanya, and Frederick S Colby. Understanding Islam And Muslim Traditions. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2009. Print.
Religioustolerance.org,. ‘Discrimination Against Women At Christian Educational Institutions’. Retrieved 3 December 2015, from . http://www.religioustolerance.org/femeddis.htm
Karoor, Isaac. The Lost Moonflower. Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing, 2006. Print.
King, A. ‘Islam, Women And Violence’. Feminist Theology 17.3 (2009): 292-328. Web.
Romberg, Claudia. ‘Women In Engaged Buddhism’. Contemporary Buddhism 3.2 (2002): 161-170. Web.
McPhillips, K. ‘Religion And Gender In The Post-Secular State: Accommodation Or Discrimination?’. Feminist Theology 23.2 (2015): 156-170. Web.
Jeyaraj, Nirmala, and Shanti Manuel. Women And Society. Tamilnadu, India: Lady Doak College, 2001. Print.