Culture & Religion

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In all countries of the world there are cultural practices that hinder and in some cases prevent women’s and entire communities’ full enjoyment of their human rights.  Different forms of gender-based violence are commonly justified in the name of culture, tradition or religion. Agendas grounded in the political manipulation of religion or culture often work in powerful combination with other forms of absolutist identity politics such as racism, tribalism, communalism, nationalism, and xenophobia, to restrict women’s rights and equality. Cultural and religious interpretations and practices are institutionalized through unequal family laws, laws and policies restricting women’s reproductive and economic choices, and the absence of laws banning gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices, to name a few.

Yet culture is not static. It is a highly dynamic process that shapes and reflects the diverse ways of living of different populations around the world. Neither is religion monolithic. All religions have groups within them that use different interpretations and practices that challenge discriminatory gender roles and economic policies and practices in order to advance justice and human rights. Women in all their diversity have historically struggled against the ways in which dominant culture is defined, using their agency to transform cultural practices and traditions that undermine their human rights.

How have women’s organizations and movements successfully strategized to counter the role played by religious and cultural fundamentalisms in obstructing women’s economic autonomy from the family to the international level? How are religious and cultural practices manipulated and imposed by powerful economic actors from individuals and businesses to organizations and states for their benefit? How can women actively claim their cultural rights and strengthen their agency to transform cultural or religious practices that hinder their capacity to exercise human rights, particularly their economic and social rights?

Related Resources

  1. Lebanon: Hotchpotch of Religious Laws Restricts Basic Rights, IRIN, July 19, 2011
  2. Egypt: Rigid Coptic Divorce Laws Sparks Brawl, Protests, WomensENews, July 25, 2011
  3. Brazil’s Shifting Views of Church, Abortion and Lifestyle, PBS, August 2011
  4. Afghanistan mother and daughter stoned and shot dead,  BBC November 2011
  5. For U.S. bishops, economic justice isn’t on the agenda, Baltimore Sun, November 15, 2011
  6. The Muslim Brotherhood Spring, Al Arabiya News, November 6, 2011
  7. Tunisia: Women Fearful of Islamists Rise, November 14, 2011
  8. Sharia Law Declaration Raises Concerns In New Libya, AFP, October 26, 2011

Related AWID Publications

Feminists On The Frontline: Case Studies Of Resisting And Challenging Fundamentalisms


Towards A Future Without Fundamentalisms

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