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Kristof on religion’s role in keeping women down

January 10, 2010
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Excellent column by Nicholas Kristof in the NYT about the treatment of women in religion. He’s right on the money, and this is something that I’ve been stewing about for years. Kristof isn’t just talking about the extreme cases of violence and oppression that are tolerated — if not supported — by religious leaders. The kind of things we hear about happening in Iran and Afghanistan and Nigeria. He also addresses the problems right here in the supposedly progressive West.

He quotes former President Carter:

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted in a speech last month to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia.

“The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Carter is part of a group called the Elders, which is addressing this concern.

Writes Kristoff:

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals.

Amen, brother.


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