You have all heard of The Last Supper. If you have seen or read The Da Vinci Code, you may think the beautiful human next to Jesus Christ is Mary Magdalene. In addition, the historian in this novel said that Leonardo da Vinci intended to represent metaphorically the top secret within Christianity who tried to hide Jesus’ marriage with Mary Magdalene. Furthermore, you could find another story that says the descendant of Jesus was a woman, and Christians who were opposed to this idea killed many women in the name of a witch‐hunt.
Of course, the work of The Da Vinci Code is just fiction, and there are numerous differing opinions. However, this piece of fiction clearly portrayed the discrimination of women in one religion. The controversial Opus Dei is not an exception. Why did they hide and reject women from their religion? In this matter, there could be many common misunderstandings. Most religions say that all people are equal in front of God. Then, how do we explain unsolved contradictions on unequal equality in respect to women?
Religion Exposes Its Inequality
Jang Seokyman, a director of the Korea Institute and Culture, said that, “The whole organization of religion is disadvantageous for women. Although most believers are women, almost guidance divisions are men.” Although women make up 70% of the Buddhist religion, 63% of Protestantism, and 59% of Catholicism, why don’t nuns perform Christian mass, why are we frugal in the number of women pastor leading congregations, and why does a Buddhist num face younger Buddhist nun, and not the other way around?
According to the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Korea, there are 8,752 nuns and 3,091 priests. Although, there are more many nuns, women priests are unheard of. In Buddhism, a Biguni (Buddhist nun) has to keep some rules. Biguni should bow to a Bigu younger than her. Biguni also must receive instruction from Bigu every the fifteenth day, and during the period, Biguni must not slander Bigu. Even, when Biguni lightly sinned, Biguni must go to Bigu to confess. Besides, there are some discriminative rules. Women cannot attain Buddhahood. But if a woman was born again as a man, then the man can attain Buddhahood.
Tenzin Palmo, a priest of Tibetan Buddhist, became only one woman pupil of Khamtrul Rinpoche. Even thought women don’t become bonze, she became bonze because of her teacher, Khamtrul Rinpoche. However, she went through distinctions and difficulties due to her gender. If you are a Christian, you may remember Pope John Paul II, the Roman Catholic pope who died in 2005. The Vatican has become the object for strong blame, because of their objection of abortion, contraception and the use of condoms. As a result, a lot of women believers escape from the conventional range.
Deuteronomy of the Old Testament or the Leviticus in the Old Testament said of sexual discrimination: “If a woman is not a virgin when you get married, hatchet the women,” which is one part of Deuteronomy of the Old Testament. In addition, looking in the Leviticus in the Old Testament, if a woman delivers a man, the women are unclean for seven days, contrary to the case, if a woman delivers a woman, the women are unclean during 14 days, in the scene including the process that women are pregnant and bear a baby.
If you look one parts of the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timonthy and Korinthos in the New Testament, women must obey, and also to women, should not be permitted teaching or governing men.
Islam, considered to be more a part of the Arab culture than just religion, is not an exception. The Qur’an shows discriminative clauses well, in written form.
Menstruation is a sickness. Don't have sex with menstruating women. (Qur’an 2:222) Have sex with your women whenever and as often as you like. (Qur’an 2:223) A woman is worth one‐half a man. (Qur’an 2:282) Women are feeble and are unable to devise a plan. (Qur’an 4:98) The wives of Muhammad are not like other women. They must not leave their houses. (Qur’an 33:32‐33)
Polygamy is prevalent in most of Arab countries, though they argue as to their own causes.
Actually, we are able to think of injustice on women and sex discrimination in conventional ways. Female circumcision is not a problem to be ignored in convention area. It is defined as the act of cutting the clitoris or labia minora of a female at an early age with small knife. The pitiful girls undergo an emasculation of sexual desire as well as the simple removal of sexual organs. This is not the end.
After the minority survivors reached at just 30% get married, they suffer from another cutting to make their vaginas open out, until the hole is stabilized completely. Even when they deliver a baby, they are going to undergo the third cutting. Although, it must be mentioned that men also have been emasculated, now, compared to about 6000 female children per day under 5~7years old.
In the Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1‐2)
Most people who may read Genesis perhaps know these words. Do you consider the concept of God as a mature man, as in Western paintings? It is a hasty conclusion; in sentence, “The Spirit of God” is ruach Elohim in Hebrew. “Ruach” means the Holy Spirit is a feminine noun, and ‘Elohim’ is the plural form of God. You cannot think of bearded old man who is wearing a white robe in this context. If you think that ‘God’ is a man, it is a prejudice.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26‐27)
Light created from day and night, sky and ground, sea and land, plant, fish, bird, animal to man and woman. In order of creation, woman was created at the very last. According to Lynne Bundesen, author of The Woman’s Guide to the Bible, she said that the woman was a final creation, not a valueless creation. A musical score of symphony is completed with final chord or musical note. In the end, she argued that women were the highest idea on revelation of the creation by the Spirit of God.
The story of ‘Eve’ almost depends on interpretation only by men, excluding women, for thousands of years. Because of that, a lot of people think that Eve whose sex is female is the basic cause of all sin, disease and death. However, is it truth that Eve, as a woman, is responsible for all these occurrences?
When the woman took the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6) The Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He (Man) answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me―she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9‐13)
Lynne Bundesen pointed out something; man said where the responsibility lies (at first God spoke, then woman and finally him.) However, woman reported just a fact. That is to say, Lynne Bundesen asserted that men tend to hide, to not recognize their responsibility at once. And generally man is disposed to pass the buck to women. When you read the Bible, you may think the Bible said that women have to be under a curse. For the sole reason that Eve wants to get wisdom, God cursed her.
Are you sure of it? The Bible said that, “I (the LORD God) will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children (Genesis 3:16).” Some people said women’s bodies are the causes of unhappiness. Someone said owing to Eve, other people said due to insufficiency of concern and understanding. And also, many women have thought menses is kind of curses. However, the Bible is silent on the matter.
There are two opinions by two students. One is a Protestant and another is a Catholic. First of all, Choi hae young (Protestant) said her opinion. (She is major in Christian Education at Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary.) “I think that God said the above because of the culture at that time rather than women’s discrimination. In the Old Testament, an orphan, a widow, and a vagabond are the best of the poorest.
And in Mosaic Law, there are measures for protecting neglect of these people. The Bible doesn’t stand or emphasize absolutely that be belittle women. In other words, it is not important things in the Bible. Recently, women power is increasing by degrees with liberation theology.”
Next, Eum Na Young (Catholic) who is major in Cultural Properties Management at the Korean National University of Cultural Heritage said her thought. “Actually, religions have a part of sexual discrimination in my opinion. As a Catholic, I have seen some parts of discrimination within Catholicism.
For instance, there was witch unting. However, I think above story falls on the side of myth. Human ministered to goddesses in a period of a matrilineal society. But it changed gradually with beginning a male‐dominated society. Therefore I think that religion was used as means for holding down the matrilineal society.”
In the Qur’an
Lots of people may think that Islam is the most discriminatory religion. In fact, however, sexual discrimination depends on ideology, level of development, interpretation by men and historic situation rather than Islam. In other words, the situation and position of Islamic women has changed with time.
O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you. (Qur’an 4:1)
Contrary to the Bible, the Qur’an said that man and woman were created together from one soul. And also, the rights of women and men are equal to each other in Qur’an. You can understand that, if you read the Qur’an 3:195, 33:35, 16:37. Namely Islamic women have equal rights and religious duties. At times, women remit religious duties during at the period of pregnancy, nursing, and menstruation.
And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). (Qur’an 4:4) And if ye wish to exchange one wife for another and ye have given unto one of them a sum of money (however great), take nothing from it. (Qur’an 4:20) Unto the men (of a family) belongeth a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and unto the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be little or much ‐ a legal share. (Qur’an 4:7) Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Qur’an 4:32)
Women have strong property rights and her husband does not have the right to her property. In the Qur’an, women can manage her property and can freely sell, borrow, lend, and sign legal documents. Also, a woman can be a trustee, and manage a business. In addition, women also have the right of succession.
Are those who know equal with those who know not? (Qur’an 39:9) The Qur’an vests the right that all can pursue knowledge equally. And it asks to teach a female slave. Moreover, women keep her family name after marriage. Women have the right to pursue oats. Divorce must be pronounced twice and then (a woman) must be retained in honor or released in kindness. (Qur’an 2:229) Qur’an speaks of divorce. Qur’an holds up a hand woman side.
The Movement in Buddhism
In case of Buddhism, Buddhism is relatively discriminative. Most of the Sutras don’t mention women. However, Mahayana Buddhism denies antagonism between men and women. In other words, Mahayana Buddhism begun with the idea of demolishing prejudice. And Buddhist saints that are presented in Mahayana Buddhism can be everyone who acts altruistically to be Buddhist without class or background.
Voice on Religion by People
Hong Boram (she is an atheist), major in Philosophy at Ewha Womans University, said that. “In advance, religions have reflected a view of the gentry, or the gentry use religion. Historically, men occupied a position in the mainstream. Because of that, there are some private ideas in religious world. However, it is necessary to discuss whether religions on the early days have really these meanings or not.
The main bodies of exegetes have different view with religion itself. Even if religions have some evil at times, the reason that spread abroad is because of ideas that can concentrate many people, such as the ideas of equality. Who made sexually discriminative rules? When were sexually discriminative rules made? It is necessary to know deeper than now. Sexual discrimination is not a problem in only the religious world. Women have disclosed historically. This fact was showed in religious world.”
In fact, most religion claim that men and women are equal. However we think that women are lower than men. And many cases, men lead religions. Most things including the religious texts, like the Holy Bible or Qur’an, have interpreted the views of man. Of course, there are some movements by women believers in the religious world. And today, several women believers take effects to break down male‐dominated rules or interpretations. But these activities are very slight, and most of believers still conform implicitly to religious rules.