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Women and religion

document 10670

plenary session 4 October 2005

 I compliment the rapporteur on an important and brave report on an important and delicate issue, which is currently being discussed in many of our countries.

I think everyone agrees that the position of women in religion is not equal to that of men in, for instance, the Catholic Church or Islam, and that these religions – these institutions – are hierarchies dominated and controlled by men. Freedom of religion is a human right, like freedom of speech and the freedom of people to organise themselves. There is also the non-discrimination rule, which is the first article in the Constitution of the Netherlands. As Ms Jahangir pointed out, there can be tension between those different human rights. The freedom of religion, for instance, is in my view limited by the non‑discrimination rule if discrimination becomes a practice.

I do not think it necessary to point out – especially to my Italian colleagues, who have tabled some 30 amendments – that religion has a bad record in European history. Even nowadays, wars are being fought in the name of religion. I think that religion should be an individual matter. It can enrich personalities in all kinds of ways, but if it leaves the private domain – if it leaves the church or the mosque – the separation between Church and state should be guaranteed. Many European countries, however, still have a history of allowing religion and religious institutions to hold an overwhelming position in their laws and practices.

We stand on the threshold of true democracy and a truly humanitarian society. The report contains detailed proposals for the establishment of full and equal rights for women in religion, and the safeguarding of their position in all fields of their lives that are still under the influence of religion. In today’s Europe, the role of the masculine Catholic Church is still strong, and Islam features all kinds of customs that discriminate against women. It is absolutely necessary for the report to be adopted and put into practice.