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Women face challenges in religion

Regardless of the unfair discrimination, women continue to play a pivotal role in religious societies.
Regardless of the unfair discrimination, women continue to play a pivotal role in religious societies.
Image: 123RF

For many years, women from different faiths have been subjected to many challenges and much discrimination solely based on their gender.

Regardless of the unfair discrimination, they continue to play a pivotal role in religious societies.

While some of the challenges faced by women of faith can be attributed to the distortion of their role and are sometimes unique to specific religious communities, many other challenges cross cultural, racial and religious lines.

Being one of the oldest religions, Hinduism represents the role of women as powerful.

“Knowledge is power and it’s represented through feminine energy. Hinduism also has some of the most sublime representations of feminine divinity such as Mother Kali who is not shallow and couldn’t care less if she’s likable or not,” says Sabina Besesar of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha.

Besesar believes women of this modern age have admirable strength which should not be undermined.

“Hindu women of today preserve our culture and have multifaceted roles as the giver of life, nurturer and caregiver,” she says.

Christianity has also seen much progress as far as women’s rights are concerned.

In today’s world, women can be ordained as priests and occupy leadership positions within the church.

However, the religion is not entirely free of challenges.

According to Rev Pearl Kupe, some of the challenges still faced by women within Christianity include sexual malpractice in the church, misinformed doctrinal perspectives, as well as cultural and societal norms which support women abuse.

“Patriarchal culture has been brought into the church and made to seem biblical. This needs to stop. Culture is dynamic, so let’s make sure that the negative practices are removed,” she says.

Within South African Jewry, the past few decades have highlighted a considerable amount of positive change for women. However, room for improvement remains.

Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, believes that most of the challenges still faced by Jewish women are common throughout society and cannot be resolved by women alone.

“Women need to work smarter and speak louder in order to have themselves heard and to be recognised. Constitutional bodies such as the CRL Rights Commission (Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities) play a role in amplifying women’s voices and in encouraging religious and cultural organisations across our country to speak up in terms of women’s rights and against gender-based violence,” she says.

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