Vol 36 No. 2 (2017) Religious Studies and Theology
Guest Editor's Foreword
Guest Editor's Foreword
Examining Competing Claims in the Dialogue over Sex Education in Ontario: Women, Rights, and Religion [+] 123-138
This article examines the recent debate over sex education in Ontario through the lenses of women, rights, and religion. It seeks to problematize all three lenses as well as to show how the three categories intersect. It endeavours to expose some of the power dynamics in the debate. It suggests that better ways need to be found to interrogate religion in the public sphere than either simply accepting or condemning its presence.
Maria Clara in the Twenty-first Century: The Uneasy Discourse between the Cult of the Virgin Mary and Filipino Women’s Lived Realities [+] 139-154
The Virgin Mary looms large as the image of a “good” Filipina or Filipino woman in both cultural and religious landscapes in the Philippines. A “good Filipina” imagery points specifically to the weak or passive woman, who is represented by a satirical character named Maria Clara. The Roman Catholic Church reinforces such imagery to highlight the Madonna-Whore dichotomy. However, in the twenty-first century, Filipino women have come to challenge the image of a good woman as weak and passive person. This paper explores the challenges that Filipinas face in their everyday lives, which call for a re-examination of the role of Catholic faith in their lived experiences.
This article cautions against spectacularising the sexual violence that takes place in non-Western places, without proper contextualis¬ation. I suggest that the inertia in local African churches and com¬munities against taking a stronger stand against the perpetrators of sexual violence, should be read against the global backdrop. This larger context contains, inter alia, western economic interests that contribute to destabilise African states, a globally dominant liberal legal order which in its turn also fails to address sexual violence, and African and western patriarchies that collude against women. Thus, if the influential African Christian Churches are to stand up against sexual violence against women, they face not only the likely resist¬ance of church leadership and local patriarchies, but on a higher level also the resistance of international economic and patriarchal powers covertly in cahoots with local male elites.
This essay explores whether religious women’s reliance on choice to ground their rights claims may undermine the success of those claims. Canadian courts have interpreted religious freedom under section 2(a) of the Charter to include a strong element of choice. However, some religious choices have not received protection under section 2(a), nor under the section 15 guarantee of equality, particularly those choices that are seen to be the cause of the claimant’s harm or that cause harm to others. Our analysis centres on a case examining a Muslim woman’s freedom to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies, situating this case in the broader context of decisions involving women, religious freedom, equality, and choice. These cases confirm insights from the feminist literature about the relationship between choice, agency and autonomy, individualization, and the public/private dichotomy. We conclude that a de-emphasis on choice may be strategic for religious women’s rights claims.
Taking women’s ordination—a main gender issue debated in Buddhism—as an example, I reason why discrimination against women in religion not only violates women’s human rights but also basic Buddhist principles such as non-violence. I question whether from a Buddhist perspective religion and rights are two mutually exclusive terms, and then discuss two areas of tension: a tension between religious and secular law, on the one hand, and a tension between religious freedom and gender equality, on the other. Based on this, I analyse how the dynamics of these areas of tension and gender issues could become a driving force for interreligious dialogue and for dialogue between religions and secular societies.
Charity and Justice: A Conversation with Evangelical Christian Women Serving Marginalized Populations in British Columbia [+] 211-226
This exploratory study examines how a group of evangelical Christian women are seeking to define and live out the concepts of charity and justice in the contexts of their work with marginalized populations in British Columbia. The authors identify several themes that emerged in conversation with participants. These themes include the complex relationship between justice and charity, the effects of charity’s “social architecture”, and the relationship between justice/ charity and gender.
The Tarbiyah (education) movement in Indonesia today is the best known and has the largest number of members amongst groups in the Dakwah (proselytising) movements that mostly work in Indonesian campuses. Using the notion of Islamic feminism, this study aims to explore the numerous and varieties of women’s activities in this movement, especially in relation to the ways women see their rights and roles within their notion of piety. Female and male activists of the Tarbiyah movement in six state universities in East Java are used as data. Participant observations and in-depth interviews are used as techniques of data collection. Data collection was done from April 2015 to September 2016. One important finding indicates that the Tarbiyah members conceive that male and female are segregated in nature (biological construction), yet in fact they subscribe to concepts of women’s rights and equality while maintaining sexual segregation.
Women, Rights Talk, and African Pentecostalism [+] 245-259
In this essay, I seek to bring a rights perspective to women’s religious leadership and agency in Africa, notably in the case of the newer forms of Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity that now pre-dominate in many parts of the continent. Rather than adopting a legal approach, I focus on the concept of “rights talk” which provides a more productive and inclusive way to approach ideas about women’s leadership in locally grounded (and often transnationally connected) African Christian communities. The protagonists are the women church founders and leaders who have publicly addressed the emancipation of women in the varying contexts of gender inequality. I contend that the way modern Pentecostal-charismatic women leaders argue for equality, justice, and dignity in their religious communities can also be traced back to their forbears in the African-initiated or independent churches that date from the seventeenth century onwards. There are interesting parallels, as well as some differences, in the ways that they frame, explicitly or implicitly, their understandings of equality and freedom from oppression, and balance compliance and resistance to perduring patriarchal limitations on their religious agency.