Hyderabad: Scores of social activists from around the country will study the impact of religion and culture on women’s empowerment at a national consultation in Hyderabad, southern India.
The September 23-26 seminar at Montfort Social Institute, organized by five groups, aims to bring together women from different religious backgrounds, who are resolved to raise a common voice to demand rights within religions and the state, says a note from the organizers.
This consultation, they say, will explore the impact of religion and culture on women’s empowerment from an Indian perspective. “We will delve further into religion and the culture of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism, and the dynamic interplay between scripture and tradition regarding customs and praxis particularly in the lives of women.”
The participants will share their views on the call for a uniform civil code after they probe the structure of religion and power and study existing personal laws.
“As you know, we are living in times where rising communal tensions and the virulent divisiveness of our national politics weaken the democratic secular fabric of our nation, the price of which women ultimately have to bear,” says a note from “Streevani” (voice of women), a Pune-based organization working for women’s empowerment.
Its collaborators are Montfort Social Institute, Indian Christian Women’s Movement, Indian Women Theologians Forum and Satyashodak (discernment).
The organizers note that women also face “excesses” from their own religion, considered the domain of a select few men.
Millennia-old traditions teach that men receive divine messages and transmit them while reserving to themselves the right to read, interpret and apply religious doctrines to the masses, the add.
They also regret that women have accepted the power of men over religion. “And if they were told that they are inferior, women believed in it because it had the force of religion and hence by default the force of God.”
The consultation takes place in the backdrop of increasing protests by women against such practices. “It is with a rising consciousness, awareness and an innate confidence in themselves and as well as a strong belief in their own equality before God, that women have been raising questions which now are making men uncomfortable, especially the clergy who control religion and them,” the note says.
Women, the organizers say, now question discrimination within their religion. “While Hindu women have recently questioned the restriction on women’s entry into Sabarimala, Shani and Trimbakeshwar temples, Muslim women have questioned the decision of the trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah who have stopped women from entering the sanctum sanctorum.”
Majority of Muslim women now want to ban triple talaq (divorce) while Bohra women campaign against the practice of female genital mutilation.
Christian women have demanded their rightful place in the decision making processes of the Church, particularly in matters pertaining to them and their lives.
“A common thread among these women is that they are firm believers, love their faith and at the same time demand complete restoration of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the values of their respective religions and within the Constitutional framework of the country,” the note from organizers says.