Hyderabad  consultation Sept. 23-26 – Religion’s impact on women empowerment

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Published  in  Matters India,  By: Santosh Digal, 22/8/16 In the Pic: Holy Spirit Sr Julie George of “Streevani,” (the voice of women)

(Note: In an earlier post it was highlighted how the present seminary training is  mainly responsible for cultivating and promoting  patriarchy or male domination over women in the church. It is now euphemistically known as 'Divine Male Authority’ (DMA). This article explains how religion itself comes to sanction and sanctify the  secondary role of women in a Man’s world. From time immemorial religion has been teaching that men alone, not women, have a direct hot line to God almighty, to receive every divine diktats and impose them on others. This has prompted intellectuals to call for a religion-less world which would eliminate a lot of blood shed due to religious wars. Here think of the call of Kerala’s poet and philosopher Viyalar: “Man created religions, religions created Gods, and men and gods conspired together to divide this mother earth among themselves, as well as the minds of all humans.” This indeed is a graphic description of what has been and is happening around the world even today. For proof think of the growth of ISIS, RSS, fundamentalist proseletizing sections in both Christianity and Islam.

Today, thanks to education and enlightenment women are demanding equal pay for equal work and rightly. This gender equality is now spreading to all walks of human life. If some want to promote or demote a particular religion,  for success in this endeavour, it has to  be done equally by men and women in that religion. There cannot be a “Holy of holies” where men alone are allowed entry and not women. Think of ‘Sabarimala’ where still  some women are barred from entering, or think of priesthood in Catholic Church, which is conferred only on  men and not women and therefore a  bitter theological war of words is going on. The question today is not any more, whether women should be given equal empowerment in matters religious, but how long it will take for women to get empowered as  men in matters religious and in all other human activity.

Whether one likes it or not there cannot be an empowerment of men without an equal empowerment of  women because gender difference is not a weakness  but a compliment and strength since man without woman only a piece of humanity, incoplete and vice versa  — woman without man. One is not to lord over the other but to complement and empower the other. Let these thoughts give added strength to Streevani,” (the voice of women), and to Holy Spirit Sister Julie George, the director. James KottorWhat is  fundamental in every religion is to preserve, protect and promote human rights – that is the equal rights of man and woman — in every religion. Once that is done everything else will fall in position without any conflict. CCV wishes all success to the Hyerabad consultation Sept. 23-26. james kottoor, editor)

Bhubaneswar: A Pune-based civil society organization is to hold a national consultation on “Impact of Religion and Culture on Women’s Empowerment – an Indian Perspective” at Hyderabad, southern India.

“We are living in times where rising communal tensions and the virulent divisiveness of our national politics weaken the democratic secular fabric of our nation, the price of which women ultimately have to bear,” says Holy Spirit Sister Julie George, director of Streevani,” (the voice of women), the organizers of the September 23-26 meet.

The consultation at Montfort Social Institute is organized in collaboration with Montfort Social Institute, Indian Christian Women’s Movement, Indian Women Theologians Forum and Satyashodak.

Sister George is a women’s rights lawyer who holds a master’s degree in law with specialization in human rights and family law. She says women also face excesses from within their own religion. Religion has been for a long time considered to be the domain of a select few men. Men have always been the recipients of divine messages, transmitters of the same and have kept to themselves the right to read, interpret and apply religious doctrines to the masses.

Her organization, Streevani, stands for the liberated and empowered woman in the modern world. The mission of Streevani is to actively contribute to the creation of a gender just society through facilitating a process of empowerment.

The culture of men as givers of religious knowledge and women as receivers has been going on from time immemorial despite the support of a few men who understand the situation of women and stand by them in their cause. Women on their part for many decades now had accepted the power of men over religion. And if they were told that they are inferior, women believed in it because it had the force of religion and hence by default the force of God, Sr. George said.

It is with a rising consciousness, awareness and an innate confidence in themselves and as well as a strong belief in their own equality before God, that women have been raising questions which now are making men uncomfortable, especially the clergy who control religion and them.

Hindu women and their counterparts in other communities have raised questions about discrimination within their respective religions.While Hindu women have recently questioned the restriction on women’s entry into Sabarimala, Shani and Trimbakeshwar temples, Muslim women have questioned the decision of the trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah who have stopped women from entering the sanctum sanctorum.

Within the Muslim community, in an ongoing campaign 92 percent women are demanding the ban of the triple talaq and nikah halala, while Bohra women have begun a drive to ban the practice of female genital mutilation. Christian women, for a long time already, have been demanding their rightful place in the decision making processes of the Church, particularly in matters pertaining to them and their lives.

A common thread among these women is that they are firm believers, love their faith and at the same time demand complete restoration of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the values of their respective religions and within the Constitutional framework of the country.

With this background, it is imperative now to bring together women from different religious backgrounds who are resolved to raise a common voice to demand rights within religions and the state.

This consultation will explore the impact of Religion and Culture on women’s empowerment from an Indian perspective. “We will delve further into religion and the culture of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism, and the dynamic interplay between scripture and tradition regarding customs and praxis particularly in the lives of women. We shall also be investigating the structure of Religion and Power. Through Religion and Law we shall attempt to understand the existing personal laws before dealing with a uniform civil code, and if there is a necessity of it.”

“We are challenged to live more inclusive and collective. And even though we cannot keep away from the dynamics of injustice and violence in our country, we need to graft alternate ways onto our structures to dismantle or transform them, and this is only possible through networks committed to human rights and justice. As followers of our respective religions we need to recover this dimension to make the leap from individual to collective courage. Through this consultation, we hope to work for constructing a culture of inclusion,” Sr. George said.

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