Why the Religions of the World Need to Embrace Gender Equality
By Irena Ioannou — GAZE
Amid all the mayhem on the equality front, a piece of good news managed to rise to the top and it surprisingly pertains to religion. In the Church of Sweden, female priests have outnumbered male ones for the first time since women were allowed to be ordained in 1960. Women do not only occupy the lower ranks of the Lutheran institution, but the Swedish Archbishop and several bishops are also female. Isn’t this news to celebrate?
The ideal would be for the above to not constitute news in a world where women form the majority, but well, we are not there yet. Sweden, for many, is still considered an outlier in its liberal policies, with many female leaders, while in the rest of the world matters of business and politics are traditionally left in the hands of men. It has been happening for thousands of years and change does not come about that fast in religions.
Why is religion still relevant? some people might ask. As a dear lecturer warned us in class recently, the power of religion should never be underestimated. While people occasionally dismiss it as a remnant of the past, its representatives tend to methodically weave their way into every facet of our lives, be it through official routes or through non-governmental organizations, by channelling aid to the poor. In Malawi, some faith-based organizations oppose the use of condoms and thus make women vulnerable to Aids, and in southern Bulgaria others hand out welfare service only to the women who cover their bodies with the appropriate Muslim attire.
The ace in every religion’s sleeve is our fear of death. People succumb to a lot of things when they are afraid of eternal damnation.
We are all afraid of death.
And various religions have been using that against us for ages. The core idea is that there are certain rules, and unless we follow them, we will be burning in hell for eternity. In the Orthodox Church that I belong to, there is always an opportunity to repent at the eleventh hour. Even people who spent their lives not following the rules, and, to put it politely, strayed very far from the path of God, are given a last-minute chance to prove their repentance. At many instances, the remorse is manifested through…