CEDAW and religious texts: paving the way beyond gender oppression and misogyny.

Tapati Bharadwaj's picture
Call for Papers
October 31, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Jewish History / Studies, Law and Legal History, Literature, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

CEDAW and religious texts: paving the way beyond gender oppression and misogyny.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, and can be seen as an international bill of rights for women. All countries that have accepted the Convention are compelled to follow up with a series of measures that would end all forms of discrimination against women. Any country that has ratified or acceded to the Convention, is legally and morally obliged to ensure that women are not discriminated against, or oppressed.

If the purpose of CEDAW is to end all acts of discrimination against women by organizations, then we would be compelled to include organizations that propagate religion in the public domain as mostly and often, these religious bodies propound theology that is comfortably couched in misogyny, thereby validating a heightened sense of machismo as being endemic to human behaviour. 

Undoubtedly and what is obvious is that any nation that is a participant to CEDAW is legally bound to examine and interrogate the role that is played by these religious organizations in normalising misogyny and in also disseminating these ideas in the public domain on a daily basis.

The United States of America and the Vatican have not signed CEDAW; we seriously wonder about their commitment to ensuring gender parity in the world. If these nations realized the fact that religion is a bedrock of perpetuating misogyny, they would desire to change the texts which form the warp-and-woof of religion. If since times immemorial, it has been said that women are the cause of Original Sin, and if the Bible codifies this and it is impossible to change this perception (which works in an a-historical, timeless manner), without rewriting the Bible – then the Bible has to be rewritten.

Textual chaos in the Book of Genesis.

The first two chapters of the Book of Genesis (in the Old Testament) do not hold together in terms of textual coherence; there is a sense of closure by the end of Chapter 1 and we do not really expect a repetition of the same story in Chapter 2. In the second chapter, the story is not only repeated but also told differently. It is clear that the first two chapters were written by two different authors. 

In Chapter 1, we learn that God is good; and we are told what comprises this notion of “goodness”; God also made human in Its likeness and made them in an act that was simultaneous:

 [1:27] So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

 In other words, God created both man and woman. On the other hand, in Chapter 2, we learn that God first made man and then, a rib of man was used to make woman. In other words, woman is seen as being an appendage to man and thus, she is his subordinate. The good God also becomes misogynous and this is seen as a normative behavior of God. This narrative clearly negates the story of Creation as is narrated in Chapter 1.  These two chapters, thus, contradict each other. The lack of textual cohesion makes the first two chapters of the Genesis suspect; we really are unable to say with authority that these two chapters were the products of a single author.

What does it mean to be “good”?

The Biblical God is said to be “good” and that is a common refrain in the text; the conundrum is evident when we ask as to why exactly should a God that is supposed “good” also be misogynous – unless these two characteristics are interchangeable. Even if there are ample instances in the Bible where women have been portrayed in a positive light, as good mothers and wives and queens -  these gestures of tokenism cannot negate the fundamental premise which defines being a woman and is ontological to her identity: that she is the cause of Original Sin and humankind’s Fall from Grace.

The focus is to re-conceptualize new methodologies and literary models which would allow us to engage with  religious texts. For more information, please write to: Tapati Bharadwaj at tbharadwaj@yahoo.com.

Deadline for 600 word abstracts: Oct. 2016.

This collection will be published by a non-academic, independent venture: Bare Feet Theology. (barefeettheology.wordpress.com)

Contact Info: 

Bare Feet Theology.

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