Equality of men and women
Seeing that Internal Women’s Day is coming up I thought I’d make a post on this topic. One of many striking features of the Baha’i faith is its emphasis on the equality of men and women in all aspects of everyday life. The Baha’i perspective invites people to empower the station of women from family life to education, making a break from rigid notions of gender roles, in patriarchal societies, which feminists see as maintaining the status-quo. The integration and disintegration of women’s rights in society are in many ways reinvented in modern times, and are reproduced through media representations in positive and negative ways.
Contrary to popular belief, is the perspective that the world’s religions have always empowered the station of women, according to the social context to which they were revealed. This idea and concept is what Bahai’s strive to promote, and practically implement in relation to the Baha’i concept of the equality of men and women in today’s society. For example Baha’i inspired non-governmental organisations such the Tahirih Justice Center, provides pro-bono legal and other support for immigrant women facing gender based persecution in the United Sates.
The equality of men and women is not merely a distant ideal, but at the same time it is not realistic for the sexes to dispel all their gender based prejudices overnight, rather by helping educate one another of the oneness of humanity that transcends gender, a step is made in a more fruitful direction. A speaker from The World Economic Forum recently stated that:
“When girls are healthy, well-educated and empowered to contribute to their families and societies, we all benefit.”
Dr. Lopez-Claros, director of the Global Competitiveness Report 2006/2007
It can be seen that the advancement of the station of women in terms of their access to education and health care benefits all of society economically as well as socially, the increased interdependence created by forces of globalisation highlight this notion, and to achieve equality everyone must take outward steps to attain this. The Indian news service Marinews posted an item yesterday, mentioning that all the world’s religions have model women in their history, and mentions that in the Baha’i faith there is ‘no difference in the education of male and female’ drawing on some of the Baha’i writings.
As mentioned in the article, Bahai’s can look to Tahirih as a source of inspiration, she was a strong minded female figure who challenged the cultural limitations of women in an Islamic Persia in the 18th Century, which was the social environment in which the Babi dispensation (preceding the Baha’i faith) emerged. As well as being a well renowned poet and scholar, a notable part of Tahirih’s life was her adherence to the Babi faith, which lead to a historic event involving the removing of her veil publicly, symbolically breaking away from Islam and ushering in a new age in the the human understanding of equality of men and women, Shoghi Effendi describes that occasion:
Tahirih, regarded as the fair and spotless emblem of chastity and the incarnation of the holy Fatimih, appeared suddenly, adorned yet unveiled, before the assembled companions, seated herself on the right-hand of the affrighted and infuriated Quddus, and, tearing through her fiery words the veils guarding the sanctity of the ordinances of Islam, sounded the clarion-call and proclaimed the inauguration of a new Dispensation. The effect was instantaneous.