Countenancing the Oppression of Women: How Liberals Tolerate Religious and Cultural Practices that Discriminate Against Women
44 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2007
In recent years the notion that religious and cultural practices should be accommodated even at the cost of relinquishing the protection of women's rights has been gaining prominence and many abuses of women's rights have been dismissed as justified and inevitable. In this article I argue that the accommodation of religious and cultural practices that discriminate against women is misguided and unjust. While religious and cultural practices can no longer serve as justification for discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion they still serve as the most prevalent justification for sex discrimination. The article analyzes this discrepancy, as well as the differences that exist between women as a group and racial, ethnic and religious groups, in order to develop a better understanding of the causes for the persistence of sex discrimination. The article shows that deficiencies in liberal theory and practice, as well as a misunderstanding of the nature of the oppression of women and of women's reaction to it, are responsible for the continued acceptance of religious and cultural practices that discriminate against women. A lack of understanding of the structural, political, sociological and psychological factors - which contribute to the creation and the maintenance of discrimination against women, and which are delineated in the article - serves to obscure the insidious nature of sex discrimination due to religious and cultural practices and facilitate its continuation.
Keywords: women, equality, religion, culture, liberalism, racism
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