The intersection with sex, gender and sexuality, of religion, faith, and spirituality is an issue for many people, both those feeling oppressed or repressed by them, or also trying to celebrate or adhere to a faith whilst still expressing their sexual and/or gender identity, or being female in a world that generally accepts equal rights for women, yet their religion may not agree.
In the 19th century some parts of Christianity were at the forefront of equality and ending slavery, for instance, advocating the rights of women, but now that state and society seem to be ahead of spiritual faiths on equality it is now religions that are behind the times on diversity issues such as sex, gender and sexuality.
Some interpretations of Islam (e.g., tribal Sharia law) still stone female adulterers on paltry evidence yet let off male rapists unless there are multiple witnesses to the victim’s abuse. Gay men are thrown off rooftops by Islamic State yet trans Muslims can end up accepted in other, even conservative, Islamic countries.
Mosques, commonly, like some Jewish synagogues and extreme Brethren churches, still segregate men from women, don’t allow women to speak or go about uncovered. Aren’t most religions male-founded and dominated and thus part of the patriarchy? Should women be free to choose separation and/or subjugation as a religious freedom of choice? How do we regard it, if it is imposed not chosen, and breaches of it are punished?
As the UEA debates religion in May, we ask some similar questions as to whether religion, faith and/or spirituality can be a force for change and good on questions of sex, gender and sexuality, or whether they are the ones needing reforming.
Discussion event in Norwich, Tuesday 5th April, 6.30pm, Millennium Library
UEA Debate on Religion
LSE Islamic Society has recently held a segregated Muslim dinner by sex, keeping men and women apart.
Even non-Muslim Air France stewardesses are now required to wear headscarves and cover upon arrival from any flights to Iran. Two Iranian women were recently fined a month’s wages each for having “bad hijabs“.
“Not that 7th-century scripture can justify the practice, but wearing a hijab isn’t mandated anywhere in the Koran. Forcing women to wear a curtain — curtain being the literal meaning of hijab in Arabic — is a political act cooked up by nasty, regressive old men, not some time-honoured religious imperative.” – Robert Crampton, The Times
The difference should be whether, wearing anything from headscarf to hijab or burka, the covering-up is by free choice rather than male/divine mandate.
Waria Muslims in Indonesia
Indonesia is profoundly traditional and conservative in terms of Islamic observance yet pockets of diversity exist such as the freedom some waria (assigned male at birth transwomen and/or crossdressed gay men) have to express their Muslim faith without harassment or condemnation.
“Everyone has the right to observe their religion in their own way (…) According to the Qur’an, we are not allowed to classify people based on economic, social, political, gender or theological values”
“It is because they are women and they are Yazidis that they are sold and murdered [by Isis]. What they are experiencing is femicide.”
A Roman Catholic edict suggests that women are not worthy or equal to men or representative of humanity to have their feet washed by a male priest during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.
Is the answer a queer rewriting of the Bible?
“I want to make an inclusive, celebratory space within the text that undoes the implicit sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, hierarchical oppression, slut-shaming, etc. and reconstitutes the feminine, the queer, the outcast, the strange.”
Evangelicals on Transgender
A documentary called “Did God give me the Wrong Body?” seeks to give an evangelical Christian response to transgender people.
“Biblical Christians hold that ‘sex change’ surgery desecrates a body made in the image of God…A painful operation cannot solve the mental dysfunction…left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain.” – Christian Institute
Non-Binary & Trans Youth
The Free Church of Scotland has condemned SNP moves to accept non-binary gender and extend trans self-identification to 16 & 17 year olds:
“It is a policy that will bring untold disaster and harm upon Scotland’s children,” – Free Kirk moderator, Rev David Robertson