On air: Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?

There are several stories that are driving this discussion. This video is one of them.

Thousands of you have watched this video of a Pakistani girl being flogged for a relationship she’s alleged to have had.

The punishment was administered in the Swat Valley which has recently come under Sharia law in a move to placate the Taliban.

2. There’s been fierce debate of a new law in Afghanistan which would give a husband the legal right to have sex with his wife every four days. The law’s now being reviewed, but it has been supported by people who have sympathy with the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

3. Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have altered a photo of Israel’s new cabinet and removed two female cabinet ministers. One replaced them with men, the other left the space blank. Printing pictures of woman is seen as a violation of female modesty.

Add to that the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion, and any number of examples from Saudi Arabia (women not being allowed to drive being one), and some of you argue that religion in its many forms places obstacle after obstacle in front of women being treated fairly.

Do you agree? Or is that to misunderstand how some religions view women and men as different but equal?

130 Responses to “On air: Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?”

  1. 1 Rob (UK)
    April 6, 2009 at 14:17

    The control and subjugation of women by men is too often permitted when it is based on so called religious principles of morality. Using religion as an excuse is an simple way to end an argument, when people should be more closely examining their true motivations.

  2. 2 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 14:19

    While I think religion is a very large obstacle to gender equality, are the genders really equal? We’re assuming they are. Men are better at some things, women are better at some things. Can you aspire to something that doesn’t exist? And even if it were possible, beyond religion, there are other things that prevent “equality” like lack of accountability, laws favoring certain genders, etc. While religion is a huge factor, it’s surely not the only one.

    As for the flogging in Swat valley, didn’t you just have a show on whether Sharia would be a good thing in exchange for “peace”? Well, you partially have an answer. You’ve got sharia law there now, but will they have peace as well?

  3. April 6, 2009 at 14:20

    there is no such thing as “religion,” there is only our personal relationship with our only LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, which is the only way to GOD and eternal salvation! all “religions” are instituational cults constructed by satan to rob people of their salvation. if everyone simply accepts JESUS CHRIST as their personal LORD and SAVIOR, seeks repentance of their sins and follows HIS commandments of loving our FATHER and each other, HIS KINGDOM would be achieved and all of the problems of this world would be history!

    if you plan on editing this, please do not print it at all!

  4. 4 Evan, Hillsboro, OR, USA
    April 6, 2009 at 14:21

    Brown v. Board of Education: “Separate is not, and cannot be made equal.”

    To suggest that men and women are treated in separate but equal ways is a fallacy. And while even secular culture have different standards for men and women in many respects, many religions (subject to interpretation) have rules or customs which keep women from improving their lives or their selves. This doesn’t make religion bad, but rather makes freedom of religion more important. In the States and the U.K., if a woman is oppressed by her own religion, then it is her own choice. No one can force her to practice that religion and its oppressive rules and customs. But in a country like Saudi Arabia, and now the Swat region of Pakistan, enforcement of those religious customs is the most detrimental thing to the advancement of women.

  5. 5 Roy, Washington DC
    April 6, 2009 at 14:22

    Notice what is common about all three of the main things Ros mentioned: They’re in the Middle East. It seems that it’s less about the religion you practice, and more about how orthodox the followers in your region tend to be. In the Middle East, sure, religion is easily the biggest obstacle to gender equality. In the Western world, on the other hand, not so much.

    As far as the significance of being different (or separate) but equal, we had that debate here in the USA back in the days of Brown vs. Board of Education.

  6. April 6, 2009 at 14:24

    It’s the orthodox interpretation of religion that is the biggest obstacle to gender equality. Many religious teachings are outdated. Concerning, the Muslim world the status of women depends on the religious trends. Morocco compared to Saudi Arabia is far more liberal in its attitudes to women who aren’t legally considered under male tutorship once they reach the age of consent. Women in Morocco are more outspoken although very few of them have so far reached high position like MPs or government ministers.

    In short, religion is what you make of it. In the Muslim world there have been female prime ministers as in Pakistan and Bangladesh and a female president in Indonesia. This shows, there is something wrong with the way Islam is interpreted. The same applies to other religions still in the grip of fundamentalists who refuse to live here and now and continue to look backward as if moving forward will cause them to fall in an abyss.

  7. 7 Kelly, from Chicago, IL, USA
    April 6, 2009 at 14:24

    There are many causes of gender equality, but religion does seem to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest. It is so upsetting to notice how misogynistic many of the major religions are, even if it is just in underlying themes rather than being blatant. I wish the US and Israel would realize how misogynistic our own cultures can be when they are using violence against women as part of the justification of overthrowing political regimes.

    Unfortunately misogyny seems to be a major part of cultures everywhere and is a major part of history. I believe misogyny is also a major root in hatred of homosexuality. I think we should all as a worldwide culture examine why men are so willing to feel negatively towards women. Why does religion teach so often that women are a root or channel of evil? And why do women buy into these religions themselves?

  8. 8 Bob in Queensland
    April 6, 2009 at 14:31

    All religions are the invention of mankind…and the rules are almost exclusively written by men. Based on “enlightened self interest” of course religion is an obstacle to gender equality, just as it tends to be an obstacle to ALL kinds of equality. Religion has a vested interest in creating and preserving a status quo.

  9. April 6, 2009 at 14:36

    Religion is the drug that men use to keep women “in their place” — including and especially Christianity. But it’s not fair to solely blame men. Women have to take some blame in playing along with the charade.

  10. 10 Jennifer
    April 6, 2009 at 14:41

    1. Interesting how this young girl is being punished for a relationship she “allegedly” had. I guess that’s one of those loopholes; kind of like the testimony of women being worth half that of men.

    2. Says alot when men have to use their religion to force women to have sex with them. One word; married or not, RAPE.

    3. It’s interesting that people would think removing women completely from a photo would preserve modesty. As for the catholic church’s stance on abortion, how is that promoting inequality? Men do not carry babies. Men do not have to experience childbirth. Men can just say take care of your “problem” and go on living in lalaland! Women DO and it’s a way that some make women the victims of exploitation.

    There is a big difference between protecting human life and prohibiting women from driving cars

  11. 11 VictorK
    April 6, 2009 at 14:41

    To coin a phrase, there you go again WHYS, acting as if there’s a religion called ‘Religion’, and ascribing to religion alone what is down to culture also.

    Some religions are an obstacle. Orthodox Judaism seems to hold women in fairly low regard; Islam is positively misogynist. But Israeli society is Western in being typically gender-blind, unlike most Muslim societies. And Chistianity, with its usual separation of church & state, isn’t an obstacle of any significance, or at all. The Catholic Church’s position on abortion isn’t about gender: it’s about life (as in the lives of the female & male foetuses that the church resolutely defends alike). To couple it with Saudi Arabia is just mischievous.

    And let’s not accept that equality is always a desirable goal, or that gender differences shouldn’t sometimes be acknowledged where they are relevant. The point is that some societies strive for equality as a broadly accepted principle, with the occasional, rationally justified, exception; others are immersed in gender inequality (and others) arising from bigoted and determinedly unintelligent views, secular as well as religious.

  12. 12 Tom D Ford
    April 6, 2009 at 14:42

    This story about a Christian Fundamentalist, religious war, child soldier breeding program fits right in here:

    “In Quiverfull Movement, Birth Control Is Shunned”

    ” ‘Womb Is A Powerful Weapon’

    That’s also the hope of Nancy Campbell, a leader of the Quiverfull movement and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply.

    “The womb is such a powerful weapon; it’s a weapon against the enemy,” Campbell says. ”


    I suggest that this is the ultimate of child abuse!

  13. April 6, 2009 at 14:47

    It is hard to imagine that religion as we know it or as we understand it as being the advocate for fairness is the only area that still stands in the way of full equality between men and women.

    It is only in religion where you will find things like women cannot do this or the other.
    We have seen an immense explosion of feminine potential in the last few decades but religion has basically remained the same.

    I think though that those people who claim to follow God’s commands to the dot need to be heard as to why they think women cannot serve in the priviledged positions in their respective denominations.

    Is it by coincidence that women are only barred from the top positions of the religions?

    Just wondering

  14. 14 archibald in Oregon
    April 6, 2009 at 14:51

    Absolutely without a doubt. Flogging for alleged unsanctioned relations……outrageous. The law proposed in Afghanistan is essentially legal rape, unless the act is consensual and I am sure that it came about because women were resisting having sex with their sexist husbands. The orthodox Jewish newspapers should be fined for fraud. As far as the Catholic church and their stance on abortion defying all logic and or compassion for women who deserve the right to choose when it comes to THEIR bodies, outrageous.
    RELIGION AND THE ZEALOTRY IT CREATES SHOULD BE BANNED FOR ALL TIME, FROM THIS PLANET. THE CONCEPT OF GOD IS A HUMAN CREATION FOR THAT WHICH WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND. IT IS NOT A PANACEA FOR ALL THAT WE HAVE CREATED IN OUR OWN TWISTED IMAGE. Why is it that so many are so blind and follow whatever they are told? Women and men are equals, plain and simple, just cultured to be unequal, by religion and society at large.

  15. 15 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 15:10

    @ Evan

    Actually you’ll find that many women’s groups want separate schooling for girls. they want gender segregation in schools because they say it helps girls learn better. But is the real world gender segrated? They’ll have to learn and work in a non segregated workplace.

  16. 16 Steve in Boston
    April 6, 2009 at 15:11

    I don’t know if you people at the BBC have an anti-Semitic bent, or you’re just afraid of Muslim retaliation, but trying to equate the doctoring a photo by some some ultra-orthodox Jews with a brutal beating by Muslims is really beyond the pale.

    As far the question of the day goes, I’m sorry, but posting that video and then trying to spin the issue into one of unequal treatment of women is a nice try at evading the real question. The real question is “what do you do about a religion that advocates men beating women?

    You can’t blame “religion” for the savage beating because religion is just an abstract concept. It’s the people who carry out these acts that you must hone in on. Why would anyone carry out violence such as that? It’s because the people who carry it out are, by our Western standards, uncivilized brutes.

    No one should try to tell us that these men beat that woman because of religion because that’s completely backwards. Rather, the religion advocates beating women because that’s what these men want to do.

    The problem is not the religion, the problem is its followers.

  17. April 6, 2009 at 15:11

    Religious Extremism Feeds on Apathy!
    TEHRAN – Only recently has the public spoken out against extremism. It has been going on for hundreds of years. Ban on women drivers in Saudi, women’s circumcision in Ethiopia, thrashing women in Pakistan and marginalization of certain sects in India: All follow a set pattern. Authorities in Pakistan have reacted because the international public is outraged. Pakistan should also ban forced marriages.

  18. 18 Brinda
    April 6, 2009 at 15:16

    Its pretty simple if you look at it.

    just look at the level of peace,security and prosperity in countries where woman are respects as human being and not treated like ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.What ever.

    I come from the India and from a religion where we worship goddess.

    I am not saying there is no discrimination in India but my personal experience has been really good. I have seen families really prospering and being happy where woman are treated well and their opinions are respected.My religion says if the woman of the family is not happy or mistreated then that family will not prosper and i think it is true in all cases.

    Again the concept of religion has been so misinterpreted over the last few generation that there is really nothing anyone can do to change it now.

    Things i think should start at an individual level rather than waiting for some religious leader to wake up and do something about it .

  19. 19 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    April 6, 2009 at 15:17

    All the world’s major religions have their traditions and dictates hundreds or thousands of years in the past. The U.S. Constitution was also written hundreds of years ago, but it is a rational document that incorporated the possibility of change into it.

    The religious writings of all the major religions claim to be divine revelations of a deity or deities, true because they claim to be true, and unchangeable.

    The inferior status of women was written into these “scriptures” and therefore remains unamenable to change, even though the circumstances of life have changed a great deal in the intervening hundreds or thousands of years.

    Of course religion is the biggest obstacle to gender equality.

  20. 20 Allan
    April 6, 2009 at 15:18

    Re: your question “Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?”
    I believe the question is better put if you simply delete the last three words.

  21. 21 Tom D Ford
    April 6, 2009 at 15:29

    In a speech in Turkey, President Obama just announced that the US is not at war against Islam.

    This is a welcome reversal of the New Crusades that Bush/Cheney announced early in their administration, one of Bush/Cheney’s greatest mistakes.

  22. 22 Assiya
    April 6, 2009 at 15:30

    Hahaha, I don know what to say. I think it is not a question of the religion at all; but of the religious 🙂

  23. 23 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    April 6, 2009 at 15:33

    I find it interesting to note that in all the reporting and commentary of the beating of the young woman in the Swat Valley, not a word has been said about the MAN she was supposed to have had objectionable relations with.

    If the relations were wrong, then both the man and the girl were guilty and both should have been flogged. You have your answer about gender equality right there: it was only the woman who was punished, the man got off scot free.

  24. 24 gary
    April 6, 2009 at 15:34

    Religions themselves may or may not be the result of ignorance; but their practices often are. Thus, one who believes the holy writ verbatim believes also in a male God, and by extension in the preeminence of maleness and in the inferiority of womanhood. Gender inequity is thus a reasonably good indicator of the lack of understanding (or depth of ignorance) on the part of the believer. The power of belief in the unknowable is well-illustrated by the fact that casual observation of sex in operation is sufficient to prove neither gender is preeminent, that maleness and femininity are complimentary parts of whole, and that “in His image.” must merely be an error in pronoun usage. Unfortunately, unquestioning faith is ignorance’s best defense, so I suspect this argument will break no ice with the Taliban, or any of the other religious groups mentioned in the opening comments.

  25. 25 VictorK
    April 6, 2009 at 15:35

    The references to Brown v Board of Education re ‘separate but equal’ are mistaken. ‘Separate but equal’ can be realised. But even ignoring that, the decision was a legal fraud. Segregation was entirely constitutional (however immoral some may have thought it). It was a state and not a federal matter, and there was and is no constitutional obligation on the states to provide any sort of educational system, let alone one that had to be racially egalitarian. The Supreme Court made its decision on educational, psychological and sociological grounds, but not on the only basis that it ought to have ruled on, viz the legal & constitutional one.

    Gender inequality is less of a problem when it is purely customary, as customs are often flexible and can adapt in positive, intelligent & more liberal directions. When gender inequality is part of a religion’s basic doctrine – as I believe is the case with Islam and orthodox Judaism – then you have more of a problem, and it becomes an intractable problem if the religion in question is also is a force in society. That’s what makes Islam unique: Muslim societies have to be thoroughly Islamic: gender equality is inescapable.

  26. 26 Ian from Arizona
    April 6, 2009 at 15:35

    When something bad happens, and the individual(s) are found to be religious, why it is automatically blamed on their religion? Why can’t it be that bad people do bad things?

    If a person who claims to believe in religion, which ever one, and then does something like what happened in the Swat Valley, they are not true believers in the religion they claim to belong to.

    I have heard many stories of atheist doing horrible things. Should we ask if their lack of religion caused them to do a horrible act? No, because we understand that people are responsible for their own actions and bad people do bad things.

  27. 27 Eric in Salem Or
    April 6, 2009 at 15:35

    God is good, God is great, and the problem is man! Once humans start trying to figure out what god meant in the Bible, Koran or any other medium that god speaks through is when it all gets screwed up! So it’s not Religion that’s the problem. It’s the men at the top that feel they know better than God that really screws things up.

  28. 28 archibald in Oregon
    April 6, 2009 at 15:38

    What would people do if they did not have so many doctrines to base their twisted logic on? They would invent some, justify their actions and pound their pulpits and people skulls, until their was no more dissent. The doctrines of all religions were written by human hands and so the religions are as flawed as their followers. Can people be so afraid of not knowing that they resort to this? It seems so……..

  29. 29 Brinda
    April 6, 2009 at 15:39

    Donnamarie in Switzerland:
    I do not agree with you on “The inferior status of women was written into these “scriptures””.

    I do not think any religious book speaks of mistreating woman. Be it kuran or be it Bible or the Veda’s.
    Its only the mans interpretation of these books that is wrong.

    This discussion also raises a basis question: Are men so threatened by a woman that they hide behind these religious curtain ?

  30. 30 Tom D Ford
    April 6, 2009 at 15:40

    “Re: WHYS: Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?”

    Actually, religion is the biggest obstacle to Human Equality!

  31. 31 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 15:41

    @ Tom D Ford

    What does that have to do with the topic at hand? This is about gender equality and religion, not about George Bush or Obama.

  32. 32 VictorK
    April 6, 2009 at 15:59

    @Archibald: you need to calm down a bit; too much shouting. This is what the people of the Swat Valley wanted. Now they’ve got it. So long as it’s everything they hoped for, then very well.

    I’ve just watched the video. 3 men hold down a woman while a 4th beats her? Muslims can march over teddy bears and cartoons, but not this? At least it helps us to understand Islam a bit more (i.e. non-Muslims: keep your distance).

    With extreme sexual repression comes extreme sexual naivety: most Westerners would have no difficulty in identifying an act in which several men coerce and beat a woman as a group instance of a particular sexual perversion. Only these child-like sadists could imagine that what they’re doing is very moral and pure, as well as pleasing to their god.

    @ Steve in Boston: I think the BBC is as afraid of Islam as any other Western media outlet. How else do you explain the tendency to extrapolate problems arising out of Islam to ‘Religion’? It’s safer.

  33. 33 Anthony
    April 6, 2009 at 16:20

    Lol, the most horrible womanizers I know have no religion…. almost all the “Religious” guys I know give women respect to some degree. If anything it has helped women.

    @ Tom D. Ford

    I think your comment was very relevent to this topic.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  34. 34 Tony from Singapura
    April 6, 2009 at 16:27

    Its a Mans world (so far) – laws were written by men, religeous books were written by men. God’s laws as written by men in the relious books are interpreted by men. (Cannon Law, Sharia Law etc)

    So I would say that things have been pretty nicely stitched up – good work guys, it will surely take the ladies centuries to untangle this mess.

  35. 35 Peter SC
    April 6, 2009 at 16:35

    Come on people , face it. There is no such time can there be gender equality. Men will be men and girls will be girls. Religion or no religion . Men gets discriminated as much as women. Only in your fantasies will there be equality unless we become all gays and lesbians , maybe there will be equality.

  36. 36 Bert
    April 6, 2009 at 16:36

    The real question is, what kind of society has cowards idly standing by while those idiots are beating the young girl? In the West, when this sort of thing happens, no one talks about religion. People instead question how the crowd standing around can be so apathetic.

    Ignorance, of course, does foster superstitious beliefs. Call them whatever you like, it does give them more credibility. Just how far beyond the pale do “religious customs” have to go, before people call them what they really are? Barbaric tribal rituals.

  37. 37 Sudipta
    April 6, 2009 at 16:37

    The perception of these people is the greatest obstacle. Using religious principles is just a way to bring out that flawed thinking in many. If religions weren’t there, then these people would just use something else to bring about gender inequality.

  38. 38 Luz Ma from Mexico
    April 6, 2009 at 16:39

    Most (if not all) of religion systems are patriarchal. The level of gender discrimination and violence against women varies among them.

    Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?
    My answer: It is one of the biggest obstacles, but there are other patriarchal institutions that also share some of the guilt.

    And in my opinion, the most patriarchal countries are those that allow religion to interfere in government (openly or behing closed doors).

  39. April 6, 2009 at 16:45

    WOW! These are some of the most emotionally charged responses I have read on WHYS recently… a nerve has definitely been tickled.

    Like all members of society, a religious person has the obligation to “step into another person’s shoes”, thereby assuring the religion’s equal respect for each of its adherents. (Remember the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” clause in Christianity? It is included in each of the world’s main religions.) In fact, religion, no matter which one, has the over-bearing responsibility to teach and exemplify respect, since religion underpins the values of society and those values play out economically, politically and socially in the lives of each person in that society (whether one is an adherent to that religion or not). Abuse, disrespect, and inequality toward women by a religion or a sect of a religion institutionalizes abuse, disrespect and inequality… case in point there are few places in the world in 2009 where women are not discriminated against in some way. Yes, there are good people and bad people in the world, and perhaps the perpetrators of these examples are just “bad people”, BUT they are also members of a religious club, and when that club does not cry out against their badness and stop it, then the religion itself is tainted.

  40. 40 Mohammed Ali
    April 6, 2009 at 16:57

    I strongly believe that religion especially Islam and Christianity are serious obstacles to gender equality. Recently I was conducting a survey on the types of violations and how prevalent they are in Southeastern Liberia for an international NGO that is implementing an Access to Justice for Women program. I should say that I am the M&E Officer for that program. What I found was interesting. Church leaders in particular were telling me that women were made to help men and not as equal. Some Muslim leaders also asserted that.
    For the traditional leaders, their belief is that men and women are never equal in society and should remain that way.
    Both Christians and Muslims will tell you that women were made from the ribs of men by God and therefore should be subject to men.

  41. 41 Dale
    April 6, 2009 at 17:05

    Donnamariein Switzerland is right in pointing out that the man appears to have suffered no harm from the “objectionable relationship.” It was the first thing I thought.
    Neither man nor woman in this report should be flogged as it as nothing to do with anyone else except the people involved. So-called honour killings are also an abomination. If these religions really believe in some ‘God’, then they should allow their ‘God’ alone to forgive or punish. Their societies are perverse. There is no way I would ever visit such a country or get involved with a partner from these cultures. That’s not racist or anti-islam. It’s pragmatic as I see this way of life as ancient and foreboding because it seems that most countries which are largely governed by religion are discreetly misogynistic.

  42. April 6, 2009 at 17:07

    It is high time that women are equal to men in every way. The United nations should demand all countries accept the fact, to subjugate women as second class citizens and made to suffer in any way just be cause they are women makes a mockery of civilisation. It is downright disgusting that religion imposes women to be violated of their rights as human beings. Muslim or any other religion deprive women of their equal rights and treats them in barbaric way is wrong and unacceptable. Men should understand that they were born from women giving birth to them and that men did not come to earth from air and water. To make women suffer for men’s own selfish religious beliefs is barbaric and unacceptable. No women should be forced to follow a way of life if they do not want to do so. All countries should be made to sign and accept that women have the same rights as men.

  43. 43 Demetrius (Cleveland)
    April 6, 2009 at 17:10

    Of course religion is a huge obstacle in gender equality! Religion is often what establishes traditional gender roles. Most religions call for a man to be the provider and head of household and make for a woman to be a subordinate homekeeper.

  44. 44 Dale
    April 6, 2009 at 17:11

    P.S. I have not watched the video clip. I believe it’s just morbid curiosity. I don’t need to see it to know how bad it is. I’m shocked the BBC have endorsed inclusion of the video clip.

  45. 45 Katie Davidson
    April 6, 2009 at 17:14

    For the gentleman that just said that his daughters and wife don’t want to be in public and enjoy the restrictions placed upon them; would they be allowed to tell you otherwise? Isn’t part of the deal that they don’t have the opportunity or the right to speak freely?

  46. 46 Tori
    April 6, 2009 at 17:16

    Organized religions are man-made and have long been the enemy of women worldwide. Women and girls have never found solace, respect, equality or freedom in religion. Rather, they have found brutality, exploitation, subjugation and slavery. Males seem to have a fundamental need to crush women under their thumbs and have used religion to do this. Men control religions and believe they have the right to speak for women, tell women what they should want, what their proper place is in the world and force women to accept second class status. Adding insult to injury, men claim they speak for god.

  47. April 6, 2009 at 17:17

    Talibans are acting as wild animals. I would call them as animals without any hesitation. How could a male marry 4 and why not women and why should their religion them to do so, i would like to ask a simple question, how could religion allow such discrimination.

  48. 48 Harold
    April 6, 2009 at 17:18

    The real issue is not religion per se, but the patriarchal interpretation and rationalization of their fear and subjugation of women. It is a matter of men’s cultural domination of women. Most organized religions in this world are merely the extension of male power. Paganism which honored the female and male in equal measure is perhaps the most egalitarian in theory, but it too can be distorted by cultural stereotypes. Perhaps, the best ethical system is a humanist, rational approach based on scientific facts and consigns religions to a personal aesthetic and part of history which humans will never allow to gain power and control over the scientific view of the world.

    Harold L Nicol
    St Paul, Minnesota

  49. 49 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 17:20

    The newspapers was a religious paper, only read by religious people, and not ALL israeli newspapers. That’s quite different than beating up a woman. You seem to be focusing more on a small newspaper than an act of violence against women.

  50. 50 Tom D Ford
    April 6, 2009 at 17:21

    Religion is one of the worst evil plagues that mankind has ever inflicted on mankind.

  51. 51 Tori
    April 6, 2009 at 17:22

    Why are you asking Imams whether or not they think their religion discriminates against women? These are the very men who enforce the discrimination in Islam! They are totally committed to subjgating women out of self-interest and a warped sense of gender roles. Of course they’re going to say “No!”

  52. 52 Tori
    April 6, 2009 at 17:24

    Mr Ford,

    “Religion is one of the worst evil plagues that mankind has ever inflicted on [womankind].”

  53. 53 Reverend Wallace Ryan
    April 6, 2009 at 17:25

    I heard the Rabbi on your show say that a believe held by thousand can’t be ridiculous…well what about the thousands of Germans during the war who thought that Jews should be gassed? Is that not wrong no matter how many believe it?

    Religion is dangerous in the hands of fanatics.

    Anyone who would beat a young girl is a dog and a coward. They have no claim to be working for the Almighty and are nothing more then criminals of the lowest order!

    Reverend Ryan

  54. 54 Patti in Cape Coral, Florida
    April 6, 2009 at 17:25

    In the case of the women in Israeli government being wiped out of a picture, or replaced by men, it makes me wonder about religion all together. What other things have been “erased” or replaced by more conservatively acceptable things in the bible, the Koran, etc. Wasn’t there a council of men who decided what books would be accepted into the bible? Maybe the religion isn’t the problem, it’s the spin being put on it by those in power. I honestly don’t know enough about Islam to say, but I know even now there are people who will interpret the bible in a way to subjugate women, although the bible also talks about how men are supposed to cherish, protect, and sacrifice themselves for their wives. However , the man’s role is not talked about as much, wondery why!?!?

    People who enjoy hurting others and get off on violence will always seek out an acceptable excuse to do it, and religion is one of the most convenient excuses.

  55. 55 Doc Kinne
    April 6, 2009 at 17:26

    Religion in general doesn’t seem to be the problem, especially in this particular question. How a religion is interpreted seems to be the problem. Again and again what we find is that the more conservatively a religion is interpreted the worse, in general, are its effects on its society, especially to certain (usually non-powerful) groups.

    Within Judiasm it was the Conservative Judiac area that did the photographic editing of the Cabinet. Within Islam it was the fundamental Taliban that flogged the girl. Compare this with the liberal Unitarian-Universalist tradition, for example, which current has a very high percentage of females pastors. Indeed within that sect a woman is currently being considered for its highest office.

  56. 56 ecotopian
    April 6, 2009 at 17:27


    Please go to http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=347&invol=483 and read it. Brown v Board of Education of Topeka did void part of Plessy v. Ferguson, which was the basis of separate but equal. It was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which finally did away with segregation in the US.

  57. 57 Tom D Ford
    April 6, 2009 at 17:28

    Human Rights are well defined!


    “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”


    Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

    Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

    Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, …”


  58. 58 Lyn Lynident
    April 6, 2009 at 17:29

    THIS is a ridiculous argument – OF CURSE religion is an obstacle to equal rights! Always has been; always will!

  59. 59 Todd Mathewson
    April 6, 2009 at 17:30

    Imprisonment whether in a building behind bars or within a society is imprisonment nonetheless. Wars are started in the name of a God; People are abused/restricted in the name of a God. Old “God fearing” men make ill-informed decisions that get young men and women killed and enslave the remaining living to the ancient Culture of their forefathers no matter how out of date their practices have become.

  60. April 6, 2009 at 17:30

    traditionalism is the biggest obstacle to gender equality. Some men are used to beinb the dominant gender, and view women as being inferior. Religious men aren’t the only men who are to blame, but their discrimination of women is due to the traditional values and beliefs they live in accordance with.

  61. 61 Jens
    April 6, 2009 at 17:32

    as long as a large amount of people believe that a sky fairy is more important than actual humans we will be living in the shadow of religion and all the perversion that comes with it.

  62. 62 Reverend Wallace Ryan
    April 6, 2009 at 17:33

    As an ordained minister, I think religion should be kept away from politics and the law in all cases!! Religion is terribly poisonous when mixed with public policy and corrupts the criminal justice system of backward countries the world over!

    I, for one, am unafraid of women and am able to control myself instead of blaming women for any impure thoughts that may come to my mind! I think these people who attack women need to exercise some self-control and not let your moral weakness limit the freedom of others.

    If a woman’s face makes you think dirty thoughts, the problem is with your own filthy mind…not her face!

    God made all of us in his image and to disparage women is to spit in the face of the Almighty!

  63. 63 Sarah
    April 6, 2009 at 17:36

    The biggest hurdles to gender equality is religion and society. Societies and Religions are set in their ways and feel that they are infallible because they have been around for so long.
    Men are also a problem, but some women are to blame as well. There are many women who don’t think that they deserve equality.
    Every person regardless of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation deserves equality.

  64. 64 Bill Cavanaugh
    April 6, 2009 at 17:36

    This is a hot button issue for me as I am an atheist. Religion is superstition and has caused nothing but misery, death and destruction over the centuries. I consider Catholicism, Judaism and Islam to be the “Big Three World Troublemakers” and all should be abolished. Religion is also by nature patriarchal and exists to justify the subjugation, dehumanization and demonization of women. Islamic men in particular have got to be the most sexually insecure men on the face of the earth. They are wrong, plain and simple.

    Humans have got to stop wishing and hoping for some superhuman power to come down and solve all of our problems for us and to give us excuses for killing,and pillaging the world’s resources, and we need to start taking responsibility for our own actions.

  65. 65 Melanie
    April 6, 2009 at 17:36

    I am a woman who also works in 2 churches as a worship leader and as a youth director. I understand what people are saying about religion seemingly holding down women b/c I grew up as a southern baptist where women couldn’t be ordained. I almost left the faith b/c I couldn’t align being female and Christian. Then I feel like God showed me that isn’t so. I went to college where my New Testament class was taught by a woman with a PhD. She opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus was really the first feminist b/c of the way he included women in his ministry. Also the Bible says that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. I actually think the only place that equality can be found is in God. I know that religion messes up alot of things b/c it’s created by humans but it’s humans trying to find ways to worship a God who calls males and females equal. I just released an album called “Neither Slave Nor Free” b/c I care so much about what this verse says. Of course, religions have terribly mistreated women in the past and are currently doing so as well in many areas but religion is also helping people doing many great things in the name of God.


  66. 66 Cheryl Bryant
    April 6, 2009 at 17:37

    I am a born again Christian, and I agree that religion has been used to subjugate women. But it is people using the most convenient tool whether it is religion or government to control or dominate people. People will use the easiest justification and religion is often it.

    I’ve encountered people who use religious values to develop a list of what women should or shouldn’t do. Sometimes I remind them of the Proverbs Chapter 31. She runs the house, she had employees, she is a business woman in that she buys and sells land, and uses the profits to expand the family holdings, produces clothing and sells it for a profit, etc. You get the idea.

    In Ephesians Chapter 5, men are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Well guess what? Christ loved the church (people) so much that he gave his life so the church could grow and prosper.

  67. 67 Tori
    April 6, 2009 at 17:37

    Please, let’s hear more women’s voices.

  68. 68 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 17:38

    That’s actually a good point, why is the BBC discussing the Israeli newspaper? You are only talking about it because you somehow found out about it. There’s lots of stuff in the media all over the world that we aren’t discussing. I can find antisemitic cartoons in the arab press on a daily basis. But this show is supposed to be about religion and equality, and yo uare focusing on an Israeli newspaper, of a small minority of Jews, rather than acts of violence that have been perpetrated in the name of religion, rather than just photoshopping of a picture.

  69. 69 Patti in Cape Coral, Florida
    April 6, 2009 at 17:38

    I agree with the rabbi equal does not mean the same, I don’t have a penis! But I do consider myself equal.

  70. 70 Cayden
    April 6, 2009 at 17:41

    The rabbi does not respect women. To justify the removal of the two female cabinet ministers from the photograph with claims that female modesty is being violated is absurd. When the BBC presenter wished to hear from his wife and daughter he said that their English was not very good and refused to let them talk. He also repeatedly interrupted the spokeswoman for Freedom From Religion as she was speaking. This is a man who clearly does not respect women.

    I guess his mother didn’t teach him any manners when he was a child. Oh wait, why listen to her? She’s a woman and therefore inferior….

    Religions are definitely an obstacle to gender equality.

  71. 71 Leslie
    April 6, 2009 at 17:42

    I don’t buy this argument that it’s the “interpretation of religion” that leads to abuses against women. Religion does not exist apart from interpretation. It is not an entity in itself, but is a creation of those who interpret so-called holy books one way or another. It is amazing that in the 21st century men can still hide behind their religions and use the power given by these religions to beat and oppress women. I think what these men have done (in relation to all stories above) is cowardly and despicable, and it is even worse that their behavior is condoned by political leaders in the name of religion.

    And why are most of the speakers on this subject MEN?! What do they know about the treatment of women? Without first-hand knowledge, they have no right to declare that women are not mistreated by their religion. This is like 18th century idea that the white landowners were doing what was best for their black slaves because these people couldn’t take care of themselves. Women do not need men to make decisions for them, and they suffer by being told that they are the root of all evil and not capable of accomplishing anything without the consent and assistance of men.

  72. 72 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 17:42

    For the love of God people, it’s just a photoshopped picture. Those women still have their political power, they have their position, they haven’t been prevented from being in their jobs. That some people didn’t want to see it is their business. It’s not like anyone was physically harmed or prevented from doing their job that they were elected or chosen to do.

  73. 73 Tori
    April 6, 2009 at 17:42

    Why would a Creator want women to be less than they are in order to rise to a higher level? Why would a Creator give women talents, intelligence, strength and all the gifts men recieve only to tell eomen they have to ignore those gifts to rise to a higher plain?

  74. 74 Kelley Abercrombie
    April 6, 2009 at 17:43

    It seems to me that the positions being defended by your online guests are ultimately insupportable.

    The decision of the Ultra-Orthodox newspaper is laughable. Clearly, the female Knesset members exist and they are unwilling to face the TRUTH.

    It is pathetic that they cannot and will not face it.

    This is embracing delusions rather than reality. Where is the relationship with God in that?

  75. April 6, 2009 at 17:44

    Citing scripture as the best reason for treating women differently than men is a ridiculous argument. In all of the major religions, scripture was written by men. That is not to discredit all theological thinking because men have dominated it, but it does call into question this idea that scripture=truth in regards to how gender should be dealt with. Human men wrote the rules and human men (as a group) have always wanted to prove their dominance over each other and over women.

  76. 76 Joel Streech
    April 6, 2009 at 17:44

    The reason religion is a major obstacle, is because people are still relying on religious text and leaders to justify actions or personal rights, when they need to use their own minds and know that they should be treated equal without religion telling them they should be. IE the woman on this episode said it is not religion it’s the interpertation of it, then she uses the text to justify that she should be treated as an equal. This is a lower level of consciousnous to base your rights on religious text. Also it is cherry picking, to only pick out the parts you like of your religious text, when all texts without any necessary “interpertation” says very clearly many terrible things.

  77. 77 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 17:46

    I guaranty, that if they did a study of the self esteem of women in the muslim world vs. western non muslim women, the self esteem of muslim women would be much higher.

  78. April 6, 2009 at 17:46

    and cheers to Rev Wallace Ryan! Thank you for speaking this truth from a male perspective!

  79. 79 skewed
    April 6, 2009 at 17:49

    Was it disrespectful to remove the women’s pictures – why not ask those women whether they felt demeaned by it?
    While I agree that EQUAL doesn’t mean we should all be treated as identical necessarily, it is very “interesting” that the Orthodox Rabbi (and others) are comfortable in stating (as men) what equitable treatment for women is or should be. I suspect he wouldn’t be very happy to have someone else, particularly a women, decide what would be ‘best’ for him.

  80. 80 Cayden
    April 6, 2009 at 17:49

    Why are you having so many religious adherents on the show?

    Let’s hear from more atheists for a change!

  81. 81 Tara
    April 6, 2009 at 17:49

    Religion is absolutely an obstacle to social rights. I believe religion is in fact the root of all evil. Agnostic/Atheist people tend to not have the same views as those from a religion, especially a fanatical religion. Religion is responsible for many wars, racism, issues with equality and sexism, and that’s just to name a few top issues. Religion aside, equality with women is an issue that walks a find red line. I absolutely believe in women having the same rights as men, and for men to be judged in the same way as women. Granted, women can not physically do some of the things men can do (and vice versa) women should still be able to prove themselves on an individual basis. One person can not speak for what a woman can or cannot do, and especially not a man. People know that men and women are different, we are built different, we think differently, but what people fail to realize is that in order to make a person, a WHOLE person, you need both 1 man and 1 woman. We are like puzzle pieces that fit together in perfect harmony. We need to treat each other like equals, true equals. Difference in sex should not even be an issue. Just as how you should never judge someone by race, or religion, you should also not judge by sex. We are all human.

  82. 82 Jennifer
    April 6, 2009 at 17:50

    What I think is interesting is all of the men who are so concerned for equality between men and women. Starting with biological differences, men and women are not the same. What is warped about gender roles is not realizing that men and women ARE different. WHY should women and men be the same? We will not have “equality” unless people realize that we need to look at legitimate issues that are detrimental to women that really do put women at a disadvantage; NOT some flimsy attempt to smack down things that have nothing to do with those issues.

    A very good book that relates to this topic is by Carrie Lukas….from the PIG series called Women, Sex, and Feminism. I think many of your guests would benefit from reading it.

  83. 83 Ken in Cleveland Heights, OH USA
    April 6, 2009 at 17:51

    Religion is the biggest obstacle in not only gender equality, but ethnic equality, human rights, world peace, science, and the arts! Religion is a man-made, State sanctioned tool for societal control, that exploits humanity’s fervent curiosity for the what is not yet known.

  84. 84 Oengus
    April 6, 2009 at 17:54

    It is literal interpretation, called fundamentalism. Liberal interpretation is best, it is not alright to beat someone for retribution. It lacks due process, lacks wisdom compassion and understanding. Religion does not have to stand in the way of anything. It in fact is not being practiced correctly if it is. Accepting these fundamentalist is systemic acceptance, it corrupts all religions. This is all do to corruption with religious leaders, using it to seize control and power.

  85. 85 Evan (Oregon)
    April 6, 2009 at 17:56

    Religion itself is not the biggest obstacle to gender equality, MEN who use religion (that was written by men, not a god) to subjugate women are the biggest threat to equality.

    As your caller who converted to Baha’i pointed out, he went looking for a religion that aligned with his beliefs. If “your” religion gives you power over others, why would it benefit you to change things?

  86. 86 Stefan Gruenwedel
    April 6, 2009 at 17:57

    Not only is religion a major force of gender inequality, it’s a major force of illogic: There are often times greater differences *among men* (abilities, talents, intelligence, etc.) than there are (non-biological) differences between men and women — and yet paternalistic religions assume that all men should be treated equally, and all women should be treated equally. And religion is supposed to show the way to truth?

  87. 87 CJ McAuley
    April 6, 2009 at 17:58

    Organized religion is the single obstacle standing in the way of true gender equality. Who started all major religions? Men did. Men have used religious faith to control people for thousands of years! I honestly believe that we men have always been afraid of the power that women possess and are essentially jealous!

  88. 88 Sameer
    April 6, 2009 at 18:01

    Hi there,

    It’s Sameer, one of the participants in the show. I’m just pasting a link to the article that was mentioned in the discussion to give some context to my discussion http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=170982

    I do think that religion today, particularly Islam in some quarters is used in a misogynistic and unacceptable way. However, religion has also been used in a liberating way. Before women were given the vote in most western liberal democracies – it was not controversial for women to participate in the political process in predominantly muslim countries. At the time that Islam was ‘revealed’ female infants were customarily buried and girls were not educated. This was changed by and under an Islamic system. The Taliban today are completely antithetical to the core values of Islam, specially in their efforts to shut down girl schools.

    My point was simple, political systems, religious systems and economic systems have all been used to maintain the status quo by those who enjoy the benefits of the status quo. This applies not just to women, but to ethnic and religious minorities as well.

  89. 89 harmonia
    April 6, 2009 at 18:03

    The conservative religious male commentators today have discussed the issue in abstract and non-specific terms, which assiduously avoids the simple heart of the matter: choice about one’s own life. That is all there is to “equality.” It doesn’t need to be parsed into a convoluted hierarchy of meanings, one set for women and one for men. Men and women may be different and have different needs, but we all share the need to be free to make decisions, informed decisions, about our own destinies.

    It may be so that women in some cultures are completely responsible for the education of girls, but if they themselves have been deprived of the same information and learning that men receive, then the education they are granting the girls is not equal at all, but in fact, inferior, if it does not lead them in the same direction of self-determination that boys have.

    The only point worth noting is that if women cannot prevail in decisions about their own lives with which men may disagree, then they are not equal, they are enslaved, and that is that.

  90. 90 Jens
    April 6, 2009 at 18:04

    steve, for the love of God all the books burned by the nazis were only paper. By photshopping these women out of the pictures these radical jews are trying to marinalize these women. By letting them take these women out of the picture they clearly show that women do not belong into the cabinet.This is the first step, once these people get to power the women will not be photoshoped but beaten out of the cabinet. You have to fight these actions before they get out of control.

  91. 91 tikkooo
    April 6, 2009 at 18:04

    Wait a minute, men has always been physically stronger than women and emotionally inhibited compared to them. That is equally true in the animal kingdom –male animals dominated female ones. Having,said that, religion came in to exacerbate what was already the norm in man’s women relations.

  92. 92 Tehmina
    April 6, 2009 at 18:11

    I have not heard your complete show but from a muslim feminist’s point of view, I do agree that it is not the Islamic religion itself but man’s interpretation of the religion that is culpable. What we need to do is have more diverse voices, especially women do more of the interpreting. I disagree with the moderator that we cannot separate the two, the religion and its mistaken interpretation. We need to reeducate ourselves and the public what true Islam really means. After all, Muhammed (pbuh) was considered a feminist. We also need to focus on what the Quran says and not Sharia Law, Hadith (reported oral sayings of the prophet), Fiqh (jurisprudence) or Madahib (Schools of Law).

    There is a growing movement, not just a feminist or women’s movement but that of an Islamic Reformation that is occuring.

  93. 93 Camilla
    April 6, 2009 at 18:12

    The argument that equal does not mean the same is often used to explain why religions treat women badly. Yes, people are different, but they are different in more ways than gender. When this argument is used to explain other categories of treatment, for example race, we do not accept it. In all ways except gender, we believe that people should define their own roles regardless of their individual differences.

  94. 94 Farhan
    April 6, 2009 at 18:13

    First of all, we need to define equality. No one can claim that MEN and WOMEN are equal, because they have been created different. In terms of physique, pysiology they are totally different, however, their social status should be equal and as far as Islam is concern, it is far more higher than men.

    If any women has a problem of swallowing this bare fact ( irrespective of religous doctrines ), so be it, facts remains the facts. Some of the examples, worth to ponder, is why Boxing Championship is not held between man and a woman, if they are equal let them do so. Most of the pilots are men, not because of discrimination but becasue of their sudden mood changes due to Menstrual Cycles.

    It can go on and on

  95. 95 Sally
    April 6, 2009 at 18:14

    At eighteen, I chose to get baptized into the LDS Church (Mormon) because I really believed it. But after ten years, I left, in part because women have no power in it: all ecclesiastical decisions are made by men.

    Looking at other religions and churches, it appears that most operate in a patriarchal order.

    I can’t blame male-dominated institutions to remain in their roles. Who likes to give up power and control? A personal example is my husband wants control, and feels entitled to it–like how he canceled my life, medical, and dental insurance last year without any discussion.

  96. 96 Michelle
    April 6, 2009 at 18:14

    Your religious guests are saying that men and women are treated equally although differently, yet if a woman within any of their societies chose to follow a path that was traditionally a man’s domain, she would be ostracized or worse. Religion, whether by doctrine or interpretation judges people by gender and its officials push men and women into predetermined roles regardless of their personal choice. In its extreme form this behavior counts as indoctrination, at the very least it is bias.

  97. 97 Ahmed
    April 6, 2009 at 18:15

    The fact that a young woman is beaten in the Swat Valley in Pakistan has more to do with the culture that prevails in that part of the world than it has to do with Islam. I would say that other Pakistanis would be as outraged by this as hundreds of millions of Muslims elsewhere in the world and billions of other people.

  98. 98 Sarah
    April 6, 2009 at 18:16

    Religion as a whole is bad for everyone. Religion was created by man and it cannot rule our lives and how we treat people. Religion stands in the way of equlity in general. As long as people follow religion there will never be gender equality, sexual eqality, race equality or any other type of equality that we strive for.

  99. 99 Tom
    April 6, 2009 at 18:17

    Women have been shortchanged by many of the world’s major religions simply due to the male pronouns we have used for centuries when talking about God. “He” and “Him” conjure up subconscious ideas that God is a man, a male, and therefore that those similar to Him are to be held in higher consideration than those who are not. Most of the silly rules which limit female participation in various aspects of organized religion are precisely due to the idea that God is a male entity.

    The fact is, God is not a man. God is not a male. God is not a human. Within the confines of our limited human vocabulary, God would be better be described as “It,” rather than “Him.”

  100. 100 Sameer
    April 6, 2009 at 18:21

    I absolutely agree with VictorK in one aspect and have tried to make the case internally to my community – that the Islamic world needs to re-thinks its priorities. That positive acts of repression, and in my opinion, torture should cause much more outrage in the muslim world than they do. That the fact that there is no outrage of the same kind as there was when the danish cartoons were published, or even worse when a poor British teacher allowed a student to name teddy bear Muhammad is unacceptable. That the former acts, which are truly antithetical to Islam, which use the religion to oppress an actual person should cause an outrage to any person who truly believes in the religion.

    However, in my personal experience I can say – and unfortunately this does not get reported in the international press – there were protests in all major cities of Pakistan against the incident that happened in Swat, and for a change for Muslim protest, they were largely peaceful! [maybe that’s why they didn’t make the news:)]

  101. 101 CarlosK
    April 6, 2009 at 18:21

    Hello WHYSayers!

    Question: Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality?

    Answer: Religion devoid of God and therefore Love (loveless religion/darkness) is indeed the biggest obstacle to not only gender equality but every thing that is good in the world inclusive of peace and prosperity.

    Every loveless religion/demonation/faith/belief system is despotic.

    We have all been gagged by political correctness and can no longer call a spade a spade. What is being reported about the girl being assaulted is a visual definiton of and is the epitomy of TERRORISM.

    People who practice loveless “religion” aught to take a good look at that video and remind themselves of the beast they have become. Hell fire is not good enough for those who pracitce Godles religion.

    Carlos- Kingston, Jamaica.

  102. 102 Joel
    April 6, 2009 at 18:27

    If one bases his beliefs on a book or an interpertation of the book, what would that person then believe if the book disappeared. What rights would that person believe they should have for themself, if a book or a religious leader didn’t tell them what to think?

  103. 103 Lynne
    April 6, 2009 at 18:28

    Listening to these responders, I find it amazing that both men and women rationalize female subjugation by a) telling us what happened centuries ago, b) euphemizing the ‘differences’ eg can never have equality, c) asserting that women are so elevated that they have to be hidden.

    The radical wings of all religions are inherently fascist. Religion must never influence government. The god delusion has always led to subjugation of the ‘other.’

    I would have enjoyed hearing from the Israeli legislators on this program.

  104. 104 Alex
    April 6, 2009 at 18:33

    I heard one of your guests asking, “What is equality?”

    Well, what about the freedom to leave your house when you want to?

    What about the freedom to have the relationships you choose without being beaten?

    What about the right to pursue your dreams – whether they be in public or not?

    What about the right to walk down the street and have your ankles show without being stoned?

    What about the right to basic human freedoms?

    I am absolutely horrified that we are still discussing these issues in this day and age. Haven’t we learned from the past? Haven’t we learned anything from the struggles of our predecessors fighting for equality – both men and women?

    Yes, religion is an obstacle – obviously. You have had several representatives of various religions stating exactly that – they will not ever view women as equal – because they are “different.” Women are only different from men in anatomy – and some of those distinctions are not so clear as some may like. Other than that women and men are human being who deserve exactly the same rights in every aspect of life.

  105. 105 Sandra
    April 6, 2009 at 18:35

    As a modern practicing Catholic, I find this discussion elementary.
    There are no perfect humans, but the authentic practice of the Catholic religion leads men and women to live a better , less self centered life.
    Secular people have a difficult time understanding the basic tenet of Jesus, which is that of being a servant.
    In one of the most treasured chapters about love in New Testament scripture, Corinthians, mutual submission is often overlooked.
    Tell me, did Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II contribute more to the cause of humanity in the world?
    Different roles do not undermine the importance of each.

  106. 106 Paul
    April 6, 2009 at 18:36

    This question is easily resolved.

    Let’s ask a leading female rabbi, priest, imam or monk what she thinks.


    I rest my case.

  107. 107 Thomas
    April 6, 2009 at 18:37

    Religion IS the interpretation of religion.

    Religion cannot be spoken of, discussed on a radio show, or (most importantly) taught without being interpreted by both speaker and listener.

    Saying hiding women from “the public” makes them more holy is not far from saying that “beating the devil” out of her will make her more holy. Paraphrasing Orwell: “All are equal… some just more equal”

  108. 108 Sumia from New Jersey
    April 6, 2009 at 18:56

    Farhan– women have sudden mood changes due to menstruation? This old argument is not a scientifically supported claim. Few women actually experience behavioral differences during menstruation, and even then it is very slight. And the idea that men argue women are too emotional for politics is absolutely ridiculous. What about the anger that men are socialized into which has led to many reactionary and hateful policies? Or the brute, sympathy-less rational calculations that have birthed realist politics? How many wars have both of these traditionally male behaviors caused?

    Yes, women and men have biological differences– hence the existence of biological sex. But gender is a totally different thing. Gender is a human (man-made is more accurate) construction. Yes- women menstruate and can bear children, men on average have greater physical strength, and women on average have greater physical balance, but there is absolutely no credible scientific evidence that establishes that women and men’s intellectual abilities and inclinations are different. There are more differences WITHIN sexes then between them.

  109. 109 Jennifer
    April 6, 2009 at 18:56

    I can think of a dozen organized religions off the top of my head that do not allow women to hold the highest positions of power. Conversely, I cannot think of any that do not allow men to hold these positions. Personally, I cannot take any religion seriously that cannot respect half of the world’s population.

  110. 110 Michel Norman
    April 6, 2009 at 19:35

    The action by the ultra orthodox Jews does not surprise me – these people are against learning about dinosours because they lived more than 6000 years ago and since G-d only created the universe 6000 years afo there can have been no dinosaurs. We have had soldiers attacked on buses for sitting next to their girlfriends, these people here are a law unto themselves whose rabbis call us secular donkeys whose purpose is to finance them.

    My solution, one country, hopefully an island far removed from the rest of us, where we can transfer every single ultra-orthodox person, Jew, Moslem, Christian -whatever, who speaks in Gods name or god in theirs, let them argue it out till the end of time, finance themselves, and leave the rest of us alone to live and let live. Believe me, if these people did not speak in gods name we would have had peace here years ago.

  111. 111 Annik
    April 6, 2009 at 19:40

    Why is it that the rabbi on the show failed to mention why there arent,if any,female rabbis despite claiming that women are sanctified and not subdued?Christianity isnt as clean as potrayed;why is it that nuns do not study doctrine to the extent that monks do?If muslim women are not oppressed,why is it that muslim women ought to cover themselves and men can be all willy-nilly about they’re clothing?But Islam has become a folkdevil,im a protestant christian and I see it!!Why is it that noone sees a nun’s habit as demeaning as they do the hijab?Christians,as do muslims,manipulate the scriptures,how many christians disregard most of the old testament?Simply because they are born again christians and claim most of it is irrelevant since ‘accepting Jesus into your life is all you need,’ the message that echos from protestant pulpits;tatooing isnt allowed but this is disregarded;a pagan belief is still pagan belief people,be it in Moses’ time or today…but this is not to say people who have them are eternally damned.Every religion has its flaws but it is still and will continue to be,as Karl Max puts it,’the Opium of the people’.

  112. April 6, 2009 at 19:47

    @ steve – your postings show that you clearly do not understand what this discussion is about and you have no understanding of the obstacles to equality that religion have caused, this debate is about actions taken in the name of religion (regardless of the doctrine) that cause obstacles to gender equality and examples have been given to show the result of what religious inequalities has caused
    @ fahan – there are many successful female pilots in the world who are able to fly planes without any problems during every phase of their menstrual cycles. If, as you claim “their social status should be equal and as far as Islam is concern, it is far more higher than men.” then why are women treateed so badly in the name of islam, what you say and the actions seen and heard about on a daily basis clearly contradict your argument.

    women and men are different but they should have the same rights and all should have the right not to live in fear. all religions have brought one thing repression through fear and why do these women put up with it? because they are afraid of the repurcussions and for generations have been beaten into submission. Men who rule all religions tell them that they are deserving of a higher status and are allowed to treat them so badly because God says they are.

    God is not the problem, people are, God made this beautiful world and made us all equal in it, it is only people (in all religions) who have caused the inequalities in the name of God.

    it is also clear that the rest of the world leaders (of whom 95%+ are men) intends on doing nothing about the mistreatment of women when it is in the name of religion. the wars in iraq and afghanistan are supposedly about liberating people from fear and oppression, do the world leaders indend on extending that to women? i think not, they just sit idly by and say ‘we do not approve’ but that’s it.

  113. 113 momintum
    April 6, 2009 at 19:51

    Any and all religions have imprisoned humanity in the shackles of superstition and ignorance for centuries. Gender bias is merely another avenue by which totalitatian methods wielded by fear induced and manipulative shamen are able to ensnare and hold hostage the weak and vulnerable. Sky-fairy stories spread by the vivid imaginations of a few amaze me at the gullibility of so called civilization. That the emotional responses of any or any group of lunatics can replace logical and reasoned conclusions is beyond interpretation by sanity.

  114. 114 Abram
    April 6, 2009 at 19:57

    To the caller from Singapore who sounded to be angry of why there are no nun-priestes, I wonder if she could speak in the same breath as why the Singapore or England football team don’t or can’t allow sportswomen on their respecitve male national side.

  115. 115 Steve
    April 6, 2009 at 19:57

    @ Jens

    So by taking them out of the picture, did those women not get to serve in the cabinet, or are they serving in the cabinent now regardless of what was shown in a photograph in a newspaper? If they prevented them from serving, then I’d be a bit more upset.

  116. April 6, 2009 at 20:02

    Religion is “software” that allows a group of people to survive within a particular environment. When that environment changes, the survival software must change too. We are well beyond the point where fundamentalism-style religion does anything for a group except single them out for extinction via industrial means. Look at the response to Waco, and again at the polygamist sect last year in Texas. They are too disruptive/costly to the larger group dynamic.

    P.S. Do you think those 4 brave Taliban A _ _ H _ _ _ _ beating the teenage girl need any help? I’ll bet the soldiers of the Blackhorse Division would like to give them some. I know I’d like to.

  117. 117 Alby
    April 6, 2009 at 20:38

    It looks like religions imprint on our minds certain beliefs about gender. Most of these religions wrote their codes to impress the family “ideologies of familism” or “schema of family”I heard a professor of religion recently say. They did that to enforce collective choices about what we should all do every day, including pro-creating.

    The younger generation Y did grow up in non-traditional family arrangements so they have a more open mind. But, it is still a while before they will be running companies and sitting on Boards of Directors spewing out their personal prejudices by hiring, firing and reward practices.

    We have a lot of gender based bias and violence embedded in our daily speech which reflects our beliefs. Negative images of women in vocabulary outnumber similar images for men in surveys and focus groups. What is seen as a positive in men, is seen as a negative in women. And what is seen as negative in men, is seen as effeminate.

    Violence against women is rising as US servicemen return to home life with no job prospects and loss of control over their lives and spouses, and a few years in testosterone fueled military violence. So called “Christian” inspired US society never addresses domestic violence on a powerful scale, yet Jesus himself broke down all kinds of gender boundaries by his example.

    It may also be the case in many parts of the Arab world also failing since Brit and US colonialism and falling even more as the West crashes and takes everybody down.

    Fear factors everywhere don’t bode well for women and ethnic minorities! And, those books see to that.

  118. 118 Shelia
    April 6, 2009 at 21:04

    Certain interpretations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are definite deterrents to geneder equality. These interpretations are made by a male-dominated culture that is controlling and has nothing to do with faith or spirituality. In establishing the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), George Fox recognized the equality of men and women to minister to those in need. We are talking mid to late 1600s. The results sparked outcries in British and American societies for the next three hundred years. Some denominations, Southern Baptists come to mind, still adhere to an archaic interpretation of the Bible that does more to distract from Jesus’s message of love and tolerance. Fundamentalism whether it is Christian, Islamic, or Jewish are the most deplorable examples of religion and should never be allowed to have a foothold in any form of government. And if my tax dollars are going to fund governments in Israel and other countries that allow this discrimination and in some cases, brutality, to continue then there is another change President Obama needs to make.

  119. 119 Dennis Junior
    April 6, 2009 at 22:02

    On air: Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality? Yes; Specially with the stories that were described in the opening thread…..

    ~Dennis Junior

  120. 120 Dinesh
    April 7, 2009 at 05:47

    Dear Friends I would like to share with you all my personal experience dt 6 April 2009. I am a Hindu born and brought-up in India but at present working overseas in a multicultural Far East. We completed a small Hindu ritual at home and as always we need to let the flowers float in sea water after the prayers. I went ahead and did the same, immediately a person from a Islam background came up to me and asked me what is this practice – I told him its a simple Hindu religion that we follow after prayers. After a brief talk and sharing of thoughts he advised me to get converted into Islam. I told him at my age its too late as I have passed 50 years since childhood following these practices. He told me its never to late, I told him – The SUN which gives us a new hope every day and spreads its warmth everyday to every living and non living creature to the entire world – I told him to prove it to me – is the SUN Muslim / Hindu / Christian ?????? – then I am ready to get converted if he can prove this to me. He smiled and walked away. Dear readers – yes Religion is an obstacle to basic and simple livelihood of each person – otherwise this person would have not come to me if he has no religion obstacle in his mind. I believe – wrong understanding of religion is the root cause of hate and violence in this world.
    Let us all look at the bigger picture of peaceful co existence and let us teach our next generations – that there is one eternal power that runs this universe which is not Christian or Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist.

  121. 121 Roberto
    April 7, 2009 at 09:47

    RE “” Is religion the biggest obstacle to gender equality? “”

    ————– Looks more like it’s time to blame religion for the failures in the psychological make up of people.

    Or blame firearms for same. Or sex education. Or atheist communists. Personally, I prefer blaming lawyers for the roots of all that is evil, but lately, my diet of blame has been with bankers and politicians.

    The one common denominator in the blame game is PEOPLE. When people start producing better examples of themselves than the lying, cheating, thieving, murderous, sexually abusive and dysfunctional examples that have existed since time immemorial, these problems will disappear.

    In the meantime, I going to practice blaming the weatherman for the coming global warming.

  122. 122 Ibrahim in UK
    April 7, 2009 at 11:43

    Interesting that only the woman was flogged in the story you gave, whereas Islam says that both the male and the female should be punished in the same way for having illicit relationships which have been witnessed by 4 trustworthy people. So it doesn’t really fall under the gender inequality debate in religion itself.
    On the second example, Islam has the concept of a marriage contract, in which the husband and wife can define the “rules of engagement” including the sexual rights. I remember reading a story (on the BBC I believe) of a Turkish woman taking her husband to court because he was not fulfilling the marriage contract which required him to satisfy her everyday. So again, this is not really gender inequality in religion itself.
    On the example of women not being able to drive in Saudi, again this is a cultural issue rather than a religious issue (women can drive in every other islamic country).

    In the examples, it is not religion that is causing the gender inequality, it is the the authorities who implement their versions and are forbidden from being challenged.

  123. 123 Peter sc
    April 7, 2009 at 14:18

    Can anyone tell me what religion do those species of animals that only the male
    becomes the Alpha. Primates especially are dominated by males in their tribes. Are they religious 2.

  124. 124 archibald in Oregon
    April 7, 2009 at 16:42

    Hey Victor K,

    Passion is better than rationalized apathy……….

  125. April 8, 2009 at 07:40

    “Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands”.

    There is no such thing as gender equality, because men and women are inherently different. We can create laws and rules that require people to be treated fairly within various contexts, but nature/God made people of each gender different for particular reasons. “Religions” are human constructs and are therefore subject to all of the biases and prejudices that go along with the human condition. They can be as equal or as unequal as their founders want them to be.

    People can cry foul about why the people did not intervene in this particular situation, but its farcical, even more crack-brained to stamp this injustice to Islam. To do so is to shout one’s need for re-education.

  126. 126 richard
    April 8, 2009 at 17:32

    If you blame an institution for your own circumstances you will never be equal. You can only be equal by the way you lead your life. If you need this or that to change for you to do better you are simply a victim. If you need to wear your religion out, if you need to change the institution, if you beleive the instution somehow is needed for you to have spiritual relationships than you have an entirely different set of issues. You are limted by yourself and your unwillingness to accept where you are and your own unwillingness to change yourself, your conditions, your residence or whatever else you think must adopt to your needs. 5 1/2 billion people in this world and they each have their own view of how it should be, and that is impossible.

  127. 127 viola
    April 8, 2009 at 23:09

    I believe the biggest obstacle to gender equality is pride. It’s one of the seven deadly sins.

    The next biggest obstacle to gender equality is power hunger, which I believe actually originates in the prideful state of mind.

    Religion is used by the prideful to support to their claims to power over women..

  128. 128 Jim Newman
    April 20, 2009 at 11:23

    Hello again
    This doesn’t actually answer the question put but it’s more a comment on the picture of the girl being beaten.
    I’ve just heard an interview with a judge, member of the Pakistani Supreme Court, on Aljazeera. He said that the picture was a fraud and was published by those who oppose the peace process between the Pakistani governement and those wishing to introduce Sharia law in the Swat valley.

  129. May 11, 2009 at 19:42

    HERE IN Maurtitus people of many different religions live in peace and share the common amenities available but they remain apart sociably . there only rarely are interreligious marriages. peace prevails thanks to separate uses and customs and religious practices.

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