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There exist various issues such as religious comments about secular society as well as perception regarding traditional religious societies. Internal religious structure focuses on the roles and rights of both men and women regarding worship and issues on values of family units such as sexual behavior. For example, some religious perspectives may endorse alternative family structures such as homosexual while others condemn them. Traditionally, sex segregation has been practiced by many religions such as Jew where in their synagogues, men and women are separated from each other by a curtain. It is not allowed for men to pray in women’s presence because this would cause distraction when the man sees the women. In a movement known as feminist theology, Christians consider traditions, scriptures and practices of their religion based on feminist perspective (Fernandez, 2003).
Impact of gender differences on religion
Theologians have in many occasions viewed women as inferior to men in matters regarding moral aspects. They consider women as source of temptations for men to engage in sex. Traditions held by most communities consider God to be a male and this makes them believe that, men also being like God than women are more superior to female. There exist restrictions in some religion regarding leadership roles based on gender. Christians defer in their positions when it comes to ordaining women where the practice is forbidden by some while it is being fully endorsed by others. Islam on the other hand has defined specific rules guiding on when women may serve as imams. Female figures of theology have made a major contribution in developing religious hierarchies for example the virgin marry in Catholic. Nakayama who founded Tenrikyo was also a key figure and her religion is considered to be the largest with a woman founder (Jackson, 2000).
Research has shown that, women tend to be more devoted than men to religious institutions for various reasons and constitute disproportionately a higher percentage of church goers. Some of the factors that cause this difference are a collection that include psychological and social as well as biological aspect but to a very low extent on women being more religious than men. Other studies on gender dynamics and religion have been consistent in showing that, women are more religious than men and this explains lure of religious fundamentalism for women. Females are naturally more personally committed to regular church attendance and are characterized by submission, passiveness as well as obedience. Compared to males, they are more nurturing and have a higher capacity to portray a character associated with a higher degree of religiosity. Studies have shown that, women utilize most of their times looking after children and these responsibilities make them participate to a low extent in providing labor force that require a lot of travelling. Therefore, by nature females tend to have more time to attend to church as well as engage in activities related to their religion. Their minimal social interaction with other members of the society also makes them develop a higher need for a social identity and commitment and this for them, is easily obtained in the church. Research has shown that, women are less likely to engage in activities related to high risk and are therefore not likely to deviate from the expectation of the church mainstream. On contrary, men are more likely to reject religious beliefs compared to women and easily engage in behaviors regarded as high risk. Such behaviors make men find it difficult to conform to church doctrines and consequently become irregular church goers (Callaway, 2001).
Conflict between religion/culture and gender
Sex equality has always conflicted with religious freedom and this has been causing political liberal approaches that have met a lot of criticism. The fact that religion is exercised freely brings a lot of conflict when an individual tries to pursue sex equality. For example in the United States, the Salvation Army had a case where they discharged a minister when she complained that, her male counterparts were receiving higher salaries as well as benefits yet they were assigned similar duties to females. She argued that, male ministers were receiving higher benefits on the ground that, since they were the heads of their families, they were entitled to higher allowances for house hold expenses than women. A catholic university is also currently denying extending tenure to most women teachers in the department of canon law on the basis that, they are women. There is also another case of a Christian school that has refused to renew employment for a pregnant teacher. The school agued that, if a female teacher has children who are the age of preschool, she should remain at home caring for them. When the teacher sought advice from the attorney, the school fired her claiming that, she had violated the internal dispute of the school (Dearborn, 2004).
When the law makers in US learnt about such conflicts, they became sensitive to them fearing that, similar incidences could arise in future. They therefore wrote 1964 civil rights’ acts through a bill by a house of representatives completely exempting religious organizations from title VII. Title VII, prohibits employers in both private and public sectors from discriminating any employees on basis of religion, national origin as well as sex whether he/she is current or prospective employee. When the senate received this bill, it rejected it wholesome and proposed a final version of the bill that granted religious organizations limited exemptions in title VII. In the initial bill, the prohibition could not apply to religious institutions during employment and such institutions could therefore not employ individuals of a particular religion to perform tasks related to the operations of such institutions. They could only hire and employ individuals who were affiliated to their religion and these also applied to the choice of sex which could be a qualification if it was necessary in specific operation of that task (Dearborn, 2004).
Most communities are concerned about their culture and always consider the relationship between initiatives to cause gender equality in matters regarding development cooperation. In some communities, officers assigned with initiatives regarding gender equality and developments have a feeling that, equality would cause interference on local culture and therefore it should not be advocated for ethical reasons. Culture shapes the manner in which things are done in a society as well as the understanding of why that should be so (Callaway, 2001).
According to the world conference on cultural policies (Mexico, 1982), culture is a complex whole with features that characterizes the spiritual, intellectual and material as well as emotional aspects of a given society. It includes modes of life and fundamental rights of individuals of both sexes. It defines value systems as well as traditions and beliefs in the society. Gender is related to culture through attributes and expected behaviors regarded as appropriate for both men and women. The identities of gender and their relations are therefore critical aspects that greatly influence the shape of daily life in a particular family as well as community and individual’s workplace. Gender is similar to race or ethnicity because it also organizes the principles in the society therefore creating cultural meanings assigned to men or women (Jackson, 2000).
Gender is a key determinant on how labor is subdivided and shared in the society. Most communities have clear patterns on the roles meant for women as well as men within the household and also in the larger community. They also have cultural Reasons on why that should be so and this defer in different societies and also from time to time. The general pattern of gender relation considers that, personal autonomy of women is less and that, women have fewer resources accessible to them. Their influence over decision making is also seen as limited and they are therefore left out during the process. Ironically, some of the decisions made in their absence actually shape the societies of which they are part of it while some shape their own very lives. Research has shown that, such a disparity in decision making is a development issue that concerns human rights regarding women in the society (Fernandez, 2003).
Today the world has experienced a lot of impact from globalization and definitions of gender in various societies is changing with time. Cultural change may result from factors that shape gender such as the response of communities as well as households to socio-economic shifts linked to globalization. Modern technologies, pressures from the surrounding environment and armed conflict as well as development projects also contribute to the perception of the society on gender roles. Research has found that, for example, when there was a change in trade policy in Bangladesh, growth of industries dealing with garments increased rapidly and consequently several women shifted to urban labor force. This quickly changed the interpretation of gender and women were viewed as more responsible in earning daily bread as most of them moved to town with their families. Change in the perception of place of particular gender can also be caused by a government policy to influence the attitude of the society. For example, values regarding women and gender have been shaped by sending more girls to school. More women have also been recruited into paid work as well as changing the attitude of the public regarding domestic violence where mostly women are oppressed by their husbands (Dearborn, 2004).
- Fernandez L. (2003): Producing Workers: The Politics of Gender, Class, and Culture: University of Pennsylvania Press pp. 43-52
- Jackson N. (2000): The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture: Yale University Press
- Callaway H. (2001): Gender and Culture: University of Illinois Press pp. 23-29
- Dearborn M. (2004): Gender and Ethnicity in American Culture, USA: Oxford University Press pp. 19-27