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?