Author: Nontando Hadebe

Is ‘God’ the cause of prejudice against women?

Dr Nontando Hadebe
Dr Nontando Hadebe

On this website we explore academic evidence to posit that prejudice and discrimination against women, though frequently practiced in the name of religion, actually originate from cultural sources. But the final question, obviously, remains: how is ‘God’ related to prejudice against women? Is ‘God’ ultimately responsible for prejudice against women, or is that not the case?

If we assert that ‘God’ himself/herself is NOT the cause of prejudice against women, what is this assertion based on?

Do we base it on the experiences of women, on GOD’s transcendence, on factual evidence or what?

In other words: we are looking for a wider understanding that transcends a mere analysis of historical developments in the world’s major religions. Is there something intrinsically incompatible between gender discrimination and the ultimate Mystery lying behind our universe, the Mystery we call ‘God’?

Have you published on this question from your own religious background? Do you know other authors in your religion who have written about this?

Religious texts and prejudice against women

Dr Nontando Hadebe
Dr Nontando Hadebe
In our attempt to uncover the roots of prejudice and discrimination against women, we cannot avoid the influence of religious texts. When we say ‘religious texts’, we mean both Scriptures that are held to be inspired by God, such as the Bible and the Qur’an, and also texts that are believed to enshrine sacred traditions.

Should passages in such religious texts that contain prejudice against women be re-interpreted in the light of our modern understanding? Does the prejudice in such texts reflect the Will of ‘God’ or the patriarchal context in which the texts were formulated?

I recall here the appeal made by THE ELDERS, an international non-governmental organisation of public figures brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. They stated:

“We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.”
The full text can be read here.

Do you believe religious texts need contemporary re-interpretation? Can you give examples from your own religion? Can you provide references to material you have published on this? Or studies on this published in other books and articles?

Religion, culture and prejudice against women

Dr Nontando Hadebe, University of South Africa, Pretoria
Dr Nontando Hadebe, University of South Africa, Pretoria
On this website we are exploring the hypothesis that ‘religious’ prejudice against women arises from society and culture rather than from religion itself. And this, we believe, could be true across religions. Clarifying this fact would liberate many women from intolerable burdens, women who might submit themselves to prejudice and discrimination because, they think, it is ‘part of their religion’. It would also give more men the incentive to support women’s emancipation.

Our website seeks evidence on the links between ‘religious’ prejudice and culture. We need evidence based on facts, evidence that is researched and studied, evidence that has been published in creditable academic publications. We need evidence from across religions that may establish a pattern followed in a variety of human societies. This will enable us to analyse more fully what human forces of original understanding and new interpretation are involved.

We acknowledge the extensive research done by women scholars in religion and theology across the world. We invite scholars to contribute to this research from their own work or scholars in their religion. As we gather evidence and scholarship from all over the world and from the different religions, let us look at these with new eyes and ask new questions. We also ask younger women to read the material presented and ask new questions, bring new perspectives and topics so that we broaden our horizons. Men and male scholars are also invited to bring their questions and insights into this discussions so that together we enter into a common struggle against all forms of prejudice against women from every source.

We aim, ultimately, to examine and refine our findings through international collaboration in an academic WIKI. This in turn will lead to a joint publication that may lead to fruitful changes in some of the world’s religions.

To explore our hypothesis, we have, for now, started three discussion lines, while being open to suggestions of other discussion lines that you may have to further deepen our analysis and understanding:

  1. Religion, culture and prejudice against women. What evidence do we have that prejudice against women arose from cultural sources rather than from religion itself? We run this discussion at the end of this page.
  2. Religious texts and prejudice against women. Were scripture and tradition influenced by the patriarchal context in which they arose? Does this imply that these religious text need to re-interpreted in our own time? Join the discussion here.
  3. Is ‘God’ himself/herself the cause of prejudice against women? If ‘God’ is not the cause, how do we know? What evidence do we have to prove this? Join the discussion here.

On this page we discuss these questions: does prejudice against women attributed to religion, actually come from its cultural background? Does this apply to every religion? Can we prove this from various examples? Are you aware of academic studies in which evidence about this has been published?