FoRB and Women’s Rights

Important human rights conventions uphold FoRB as a right for each individual, including women. Every woman must have the right to decide for herself what she believes and to live her life according to these beliefs without fear; be protected from coercion to believe or to practice her beliefs in ways that are contrary to her will; and not be discriminated against because of these choices. Yet, women are especially vulnerable for FoRB violations, both because of their gender and their beliefs.

Often FoRB is presented as contradictory to women’s rights, which have been negatively affected by many religious laws, traditions and customs. Some believe that FoRB gives religious male leaders the right to control members in their religious communities, including women. Others believe that FoRB is an obstacle to the goal of a non-discriminatory society.

These practical tensions in the intersection between FoRB and women’s rights do not mean that the two concepts are incompatible as standards. The ways FoRB and women’s rights depend on each other and strengthen each other are often overlooked and underexplored. One does not necessarily have to restrict FoRB in order to promote gender equality. Neither is it necessary to accept discrimination against women in order to implement FoRB.  

For information, read Women and Religious Freedom: Synergies and Opportunities.