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Religious Fundamentalism vs. Women’s Rights

Women’s rights (and of course human rights more generally) often collide with the dictates of organised religion. Two discussions of this clash caught my eye recently. First, here’s Anne Marie Waters’ account of how, for some, multiculturalism seems to trump women’s rights:

Having described how sharia family law in Britain allows men to beat their wives – as the testimony of women who have been through it confirms – the “feminists” weren’t quite sure whether or not they disapproved. I was met with highly accusatory questions such as How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?, and comments such as We must tolerate … well, pretty much everything from what I could make out. With the mumblings and applause in favour of my opponents, I was left in no doubt as to the company I was keeping.

It’s worth reading in full.  I do feel that the moral relativism of western feminists is sometimes overstated, as though Germaine Greer’s views were typical, but I sympathise with Anne Marie Waters’ frustration faced with the response she describes.

Over on Butterflies and Wheels Ophelia Benson revisits a story which dates back to 2010, when the Catholic Bishop of Phoenix demanded that a Catholic hospital, Catholic Healthcare West, promised never again to carry out an abortion, even though the case that prompted this intervention involved a woman whose life was in serious danger unless she had an abortion. A nun, who approved the procedure, was subsequently excommunicated. The hospital refused to cave in, so is now no longer associated with the Church.

Ophelia Benson also reports on the highly distressing case of parents forced to listen to a detailed description of the foetus before being permitted to terminate the pregnancy due to serious medical problems:

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

Finally – here’s a link to a rather daft article I stumbled upon by someone who implies that there isn’t much to choose between the US and Afghanistan when it comes to women’s rights.