Between Petros and a Hard Place? Human Rights to Religious Liberty or to Gender Equality in Europe
GENDER, RELIGION, HUMAN RIGHTS IN EUROPE, pp. 63-83, K. Børresen and S. Cabibbo, eds., Herder, 2006
21 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2006
Employment and careers are gendered, with women disproportionately underemployed and in less well paid jobs. Some religions inculcate loyalty to such cultural practices that stunt women’s actual choices of careers and life plans. How should liberal states regulate these aspects of such religions? Beliefs and practices based on religious views often have drastic impact on girls’ and women’s aspirations to participate in paid work and political positions, affecting their exercise of choice however formally free. Norms may include that women not have offices of authority within the church, and that they should devote their time when mothers of young children to their natural tasks, understood as nurturing and caring for their young rather than paid work. If these norms are successfully inculcated, girls’ aspirations regarding professional careers are drastically curtailed as compared to boys’. Those men and women who believe otherwise may work to change the doctrine of the church from within, or exit - which may appear appropriate if their views deviate on what they or the church regard as a central teaching. What limits should the state put on such religiously based inculcation to gender roles? That is: how should the state draw the scope of respect for religious freedom vis-à-vis the scope of respect for women’s freedom to form preferences regarding social roles and life plans? Rights of religious freedom - particularly those of religious institutions to inculcate gender stereotypes - may prevent girls and women from developing and exercising a choice over their full set of legally secured opportunities, e.g. regarding education and paid work. Such teaching would seem to violate the CEDAW Articles 1 and 2. An urgent issue is what the state should do in furtherance of the objective of preventing what appears to be discrimination.
Keywords: Human rights, gender equality, religion, liberal state, CEDAW, discrimination
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