Is feminism a secular evil?

21 juni 2008

Detta är ett tal som hölls av Lourdes Daza–Gillman på IFE-EFI-konferensen i Rom 29 maj–1 juni 2008.

In Boston, Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley identified “feminism” as one of the secular evils that make the United States “a hostile, alien environment” for Catholics. Feminism, the advocacy of equal social and political rights for women, lumped right in there during his homily with “the drug culture,” “the sexual revolution,” “hedonism,” “consumerism,” and “the culture of death.” O’Malley also opposes gay marriage, stating that “the institution of marriage and the family are under assault and attorneys need to help to protect them.”

Across the world, religious leaders who represent different religions use their sermons for hindering and depriving women’s rights to independence. The supremacy of religion is incompatible with freedom of expression, women’s rights and democracy. This is why we see religion as one of the main enemies of women’s development.
In each and every religious holy book can be found formulations stating that women are inferior to men and must submit to patriarchal authority to allow for the smooth running of family life. For thousands of years women have been kept in absolute subjugation in all patriarchal societies.

In Sweden, even thought the government wants to restrain the influence of religion in private religious schools in a move to prevent the spread of fundamentalism, there are 67 elementary schools and six high schools with a religious character — mostly Christian. They are outside the public school system, but are governed by Sweden’s law on education. However the government claims that the law is not clear on how much religious influence is allowed in the curriculum. This fact is — by all means — a hinder for the development of children’s values in a secular society.

According to Sara Högdins study regarding “education at equal terms” she states that every fourth foreign girl hinders from participating in athletic games, swimming or sexual– and coexistence education. This is an important fact in a delicate situation.
What can we do when parents rights to decide over their children education collides with children’s rights to a broad education? According to international conventions parents have the right to have their children in schools that have the same moral, religion and convictions as the parents have?
The question is if there is the need of sharpening the law. Would that change the situation? Or will it create a bigger conflict?

The common requirement is an educational system free from religious confessions and a secular state. The state formation shall be free from religious influence and interference in all its institutions.

The Europe we see today is a product of religious values which continue oppressing women and maintaining a patriarch society that leads to gender inequality and subordination of women to the extent that females do not have control over their own sexuality.

500 000 women around the world die every year in conjunction with pregnancy, childbirth or an unsafe abortion.
The development is alarming in most European countries. Recently were abortions clinics attached and raided in Spain in the same manner a female physician in Poland was recently prosecuted for conducting abortions. Furthermore the parliament in Latonia suggests introducing one of Europe’s harshest abortion law statements. In Italy started a new political party supporting the question of a globally moratorium for abortion. The proposal was supported by the pope and other religious predecessors.

It is strange how the situation has changed into de opposite direction. Before the current legislation — abortion act 1975 came into effect — Swedish women who needed an abortion travelled to Poland for the procedure. Now a days are Polish women who need to travel to Sweden for the same reason.

The church continues fighting against women’s liberation and uses every opportunity to hinder women’s rights to independence and equity.

When the Swedish Minister of Health and Social Affairs, announced an amendment to the current Abortion Act stating that Sweden will allow Swedish abortion centres to offer abortion on demand — up to 18 weeks gestation — to foreign women,. The Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius, and evangelical leader Sten-Gunnar Hedin with the Philadephia Church in Stockholm, reacted in a violent way making threats and warning the Christian Democrat’s that with the party’s current weak standing, Church-led opposition in the next election could topple the party.

Furthermore — Bishop Arborelius and Mr. Hedin stated that — if forced — they would work together with a majority of Christian leaders in Sweden, “to work actively to reduce the chances of the Alliance being re-elected,” at the next general election in 2010.

The European Union who seems to be proud of being civilised and laid on the conviction that they respect Human Rights, acts silent watching the church and politicians breaking women’s right to decide over their own lives.

“Respect for human rights is one of the most fundamental and universal values of our world. All of us, in our official capacity and in our private lives, have a responsibility to promote and protect the rights of our fellow members of the human family, be that at home or elsewhere in the world.”

Our hope is that when Sweden takes the presidency in the European Commission next year it is expected that our government lifts up women’s Human Rights at the top of the political agenda and address the issues of work flexibility, pay equity, domestic violence and sexual assault, and the role of government in educating the public about these crimes.

There are no quick fixes to these issues. Only with a strong commitment to eliminating the cumulative effects and systemic causes of these inequalities can we ensure effective and tangible steps to dismantle discrimination against women.

Education, a secular feminist movement, and leaders — both men and women — working together committed to equality and justice. This is what is needed to change the dreadful conditions that many women around the world still face today. It will take a very long time, but we are here to work together towards that end.

Feminism urges to enter the European Union!

There is no doubt that feminists are needed at the EU parliament. Even thought the EU parliament consist of roughly one third women it does not mean that all are feminist or that they work for women’s human rights. There is also the fact that most men are not interested at all in issues that are specifically regarding women’s situation as a whole.

We need to be there to make the change!

The fact that Feminist Initiative will run for the European Parliament will benefit all feminists and all EU-women.

Lourdes Daza–Gillman
styrelseledamot, Feministiskt initiativ