Discrimination against women in religion

Other Names:
Denial of religious freedom for women
Gender bias in theology
Patriarchal religious imagery
Sexual bigotry in organized religion
Active religious prejudice towards women

Discrimination against women in religious doctrines and in the practice of religion (also in the refusal to admit women as priests) has had a pervasive effect throughout society of maintaining the belief in the inferiority of women, and has become ingrained into civil law over the centuries. It represents a particular distortion of so-called 'traditional' values, particularly sexual morality, which uses the female gender as symbolic of the human lower nature.


In many of the religions throughout the world —conservative Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish and Islam—women are denied the equal opportunity in learning and teaching of religious knowledge, that is available to men. Women cannot be ordained or given positions of leadership in most religions, including the majority of Christian churches. A woman can never be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. In the case of Judaism, the common starting point of all sects is that the sexes were created differently. Man is seen as endowed with the intellectual capacity to come closer to his creator through study and prayer. Woman, imbued with natural modesty and intuitive understanding, is assigned the task of imitating God's work by procreating. However valued a woman is in the domestic sphere, her role is seen as essentially supportive. Jewish men begin each day with the ritualized prayer thanking God "for not having made me a women". In orthodox Judaism, women can never be rabbis, nor can they mingle with men at prayer in the synagogue.

With discrimination against women in major religious teachings and practices follows discrimination throughout whole societies. In many parts of the world, including numerous U.S. states, health care providers, insurance companies, and pharmacies are denying women their right to basic reproductive healthcare— birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion—on the grounds of religion. 


Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
International Coalition for Religious Freedom (ICRF)
European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF)
Religions for Peace (RfP)
Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR)
International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF)
World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women (WFM and UCW)
World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO)
World Young Women's Christian Association (World YWCA)
International Association of Women Ministers (IAWM)
International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW)
Baptist Women's Union of Africa (BWAU)
European Baptist Women's Union (EBWU)
European Society of Women in Theological Research (ESWTR)
International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW)
Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women
Ecumenical Women's Initiative (EWI)
European Young Women's Christian Association (The European YWCAs)
Latin American Baptist Women's Union
Pan African Christian Women Alliance (PACWA)
UN Women for Peace Association (UNWFPA)
Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (CAWT)
Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (EFECW)
Ecumenical Group of Women (KAIRE)
European Alliance of Catholic Women's Organisations (ANDANTE)
European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW)
Global Fund for Women (GFW)
UN Women
Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO)
International Disciples Women's Ministries (IDWM)
International Lutheran Women's Missionary League (ILWML)
Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation (UUWF)
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
08.03.2021 – 18:31 CET