I will begin the discussion on sexism in the Major World Religions with roughly the beginning of sexism and how it is evident in all the Major World Religions.

From the ancient past, evidence shows that sexism was near nonexistent than today’s which has become so pervasive and females were highly valued. Currently in the world with the male dominant and centric religions and the many cultures of current and past historic societies, which often seem to devalue, give a lesser status, or limited the value of women. Moreover, before there were any male god myths, there were only or mainly female goddesses and animals or aspects of nature, which were held as spirits or something like deities. Many present day thinkers may find it difficult to comprehend that women could have been valued, be equal to some extent, or even hold a position of power, especially political power in early historic or prehistoric times. Around 6,000 years ago, women were documented as leaders and other positions of political authority starting with Legendary Queen of Ethiopia.

According to a scientific study, there is further confirmation which shows that sexual equality is nothing new, even if it is something long forgotten but is still be fought for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, evidence shows that men and women tend to have equal influence on important decision-making. Such findings challenge the idea that sexual equality is a recent invention, which suggests that it has been the norm for humans for most of our evolutionary history. At least by 12,000 years ago, female goddesses and not male gods were created; however, the female goddesses may have been created as early as 40,000 years ago or earlier. Furthermore, I surmise around 12,000 years ago the possible beginnings of the hints of sexism and latter patriarchy began. Before 12,000 years ago, women seemed to have a special power of giving life but then things started to change, women started to lose this perceived special or magical status. However, as time went on women were starting to be seen as an object, since animals were being domesticated and humans started understand birthing. But don’t get me wrong, this was not a dramatic shift, it was a slow process of sexism gaining power that took thousands of years to reach full fruition as we think of it today. One of the oldest written religion is of the Sumerians who’s creator being was a Female and not a Male.

The Sumerian religion is around 6,000 years old but it could be much older 7,000 to 8,000 years old. In human history, when did the religious subjugation of goddess and by extension all women occur? Around 6,000 years ago, it can be hypothesized that male gods hit the scene in full force and about 5,000 years ago, women started to lose more, and eventually all value. In Turkey, archeologists found 4,000-year-old tablets that cite women’s rights. However, more progress sexism continued to develop after 4,000 years ago. Even today, women hardly have any value or even regained a fully equal status.. The devaluing, disrespecting, and degrading of women came before societies developed the more fixed class/sex structures as we think of today.

Around 2,000 years ago, the manmade god concept took time to develop and finalized completely as the only or main gender of gods. It can be said that one of the male god concept’s goal was for male control and domination of female sexuality and their reproductive potential. Once the male god is established and by extension men with the promotion of patriarchy, it was relatively easy to maintain and enforce through holy books and laws written by men which established women’s lower status that deny women of education, their rights to their bodies, and exclude them from decision-making. Eventually, male dominance and its sexism were establish in nearly every known human society and has lasted for a few millennia. All religions have or are prone and promote sexism, some more than others but it is a shame they all share. Although though there is much more that can be said, I will only offer a few things as evidence of sexism in each of the current major world religions:

Sexism in Judaism (Old Testament):

Exodus 21:7 God not only sanctions selling ones daughter into slavery, but he also gives out laws on how it should be done.

Leviticus 27:3-7 God places a dollar value on human life; with women worth less than men.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 women who are raped and fail to “cry out” likely enjoyed the attack thus should be killed.

 Sexism in Christianity (New Testament):

1 Corinthians 11:7 – 9 “For a man is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

Romans 7:2 “For the woman who hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives.

Titus 2:4-9 “Train the young women to be submissive to their husbands.

Sexism in Islam:

Qur’an (4:11) – (Inheritance) The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females (see also verse 4:176).

Qur’an (4:24) and Qur’an (33:50) – A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage.

Qur’an (4:34) – Men are in charge of women and good women are the obedient, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other.

Sexism in Hinduism:

Manusmriti 5.148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.

Manusmrti (9:2-4) – Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. A woman is not fit for independence.

Rig Veda (8.33.33-34) – The mind of woman cannot be disciplined; she has very little intelligence.

Sexism in Buddhism:

Historical Buddha said the female’s defects greed, hate, delusion, and other defilements are greater than the male’s.

Historical Buddha who refused to ordain women as nuns. He said that allowing women into the sangha would cause his teachings to survive only half as long.

A popular belief in Buddhist countries is that negative karma results in a man being reborn as a woman and in Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra (Pure Land Buddhism) women must be reborn as men before they can enter Nirvana. Theravadan Buddhists claim a woman could never become a Buddha. The Ecclesiastical Buddhist Council of Thailand, announced publicly that any monk who supports the ordination of women will be subject to severe punishment.

Sexism in Shintoism:

The Kanamara Matsuri (“Festival of the Phallus”) is a Shinto celebration centred on a local penis-venerating shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The legend being that a sharp-toothed demon (vagina dentata) hid inside the vagina of a young woman and castrated two young men on their wedding nights. As a result, the young woman sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon’s teeth, which led to the enshrinement of penis-venerating.

A spiritual practice specific to women involves a relationship to sight because they are always blind or visually impaired. Male sight, specifically women out of the public eye, occupies a privileged position in everything from ancient myths to the modern wedding ritual and continually exerts an oppressive influence on the lives of women, monitoring and impeding their public movements.

“Feminine Pollution” involves the idea in Shinto ritual, which has been used in the past to justify discrimination against women. Therefore, women have historically been pushed out of the public eye and out of public religious spaces because of their supposed impurity and to this day women are haunted by the belief in their inherent pollution.

Sexism in Sikhism:

The Gurus’ teaching on the role of women is stated as, “we are conceived and born from women. Woman is our life-long friend and keeps the race going. Why should we despise her, the one who gives birth to great men?” – Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the third Guru). Well, that still is saying its men that are great because of whom they are and women great only because they can produce great men still sounds like sexism to me.

Only Men as Guru only Men as the five Panj Pyare yes try to tell me of how Sikhism is completely equal to women…

Shiha Kaur a self-clamed feminist Sikh states,“ ancient cultural traditions sometimes take precedence over the principles of in Sikhism. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, one of the most famous Sikh Kings in Moghul India often considered a model Sikh, had seven wives. Not only does polygamy go against Sikh beliefs but also half of his wives committed sati (widowed woman commits suicide by fire) when he died in 1839. In India today, school attendance of Sikh girls is lower than that of Sikh boys. The Asian Network has reported in the rise of Asian couples travelling to India to abort female fetuses and no sweets are shared among Sikh relatives to celebrate the birth of a girl, as usually happens when a boy is born.”

Sexism in Jainism:

Jainism does not teach that women can gain ultimate spiritual liberation, though a woman could strive to become a man in her next life so she could then reach enlightenment.

Jains believe, for example, that even microbes in the air and water are sacred life and any action that impacts other living things – such as driving or using electricity – can add to bad karma. Therefore, to Jains the bleeding which occurs in menstruation is thought to kill micro-organisms in the body, making the female body less nonviolent than the male body and the female body more prone to bad karma.

Digambara texts like Yuktiprabodha say that women’s genitals and breasts are sources of impurity and have many micro-organisms living in them. Digambara Jain theologians have written that due to bodily secretions, women suffer from itching which gives them uncontrollable sexual urges. They believe that women cannot take higher vows of ascetic renunciation, because naked women would have two deep emotions: shame of being naked and fear of sexual assault which they might face.

Sexism in Confucianism:

Confucius about women is “Shaoren and girls are difficult to handle. If you get familiar with them they cease to be humble. If you keep them away, they get resentful.” (Analects 17:25) This sure sounds insulting to women.

A well-known sexist Confucianism commandments is “Since the age of seven, men and women should not share a room or food” and “When young, a woman should obey the father, when married, the husband, when old, the son” are creations of later generation of Confucian scholars who developed a greater sexist tendency since the Tang dynasty era (618-907 C.E.).

According to the Confucian structure of society, women at every level were to occupy a position lower than men. Most Confucians accepted the subservience of women to men as natural and proper.

Sexism in Taoism:

The Tao sees the world as male (yang) and female (yin) which is very sexist. Some think the yin and yang are just good and bad. Never heard of it as sexist. But the white is male and the black is female. Chinese literature beginning with the classic cannon Yijing (book of Changes) we see sexism as we find the male (yang) symbolized as day or the sun embodying everything good and positive, and this status is identified with heaven. Whereas the female (yin) is symbolized as night or the moon embodying everything negative, evil and lowly. Ref

The idea of balancing male and female energies is fundamental to Taoism, and applies to women as well as to men.  One early practice was ritual sexual intercourse between men and women who were not married to one another.  These rituals followed strict guidelines, and the goal was the union of yin and yang energies. In the Taode jing offers a females role is made clear in passages like this one from Chapter 61: “The Feminine always conquers the Masculine by her quietness, by lowering herself through her quietness. The general stance on gender is there are attitudes expected of women, such as keeping a cheerful attitude or speaking in quiet tones. Divine marriages with deities were one very ancient version of this practice. Ref

 Taoist sexual (and sexist) practices: Sex and the concept of Yin and yang is important in Taoism. Man and Woman were the equivalent of heaven and earth, but became disconnected. Therefore, while heaven and earth are eternal, man and woman suffer a premature death. Every interaction between Yin and Yang had significance. Because of this significance, every position and action in lovemaking had importance. Taoist texts described a large number of special sexual positions that served to cure or prevent illness. The basis of all Taoist thinking is that qi is part of everything in existence. Qi is related to another energetic substance contained in the human body known as jing (精), and once all this has been expended the body dies. Jing can be lost in many ways, but most notably through the loss of body fluids. Taoists may use practices to stimulate/increase and conserve their bodily fluids to great extents. The fluid believed to contain the most Jing is semen. Women were often given a position of inferiority in sexual practice. Many of the texts discuss sex from a male point of view, and avoid discussing how sex could benefit women. Men were encouraged to not limit themselves to one woman, and were advised to have sex only with the woman who was beautiful and had not had children. While the man had to please the woman sexually, she was still just an object. At numerous points during the Ishinpō, the woman is referred to as the “enemy”; this was because the woman could cause him to spill semen and lose vitality. In later sexual texts from the Ming, women had lost all semblance of being human and were referred to as the “other,” “crucible”, or “stove” from which to cultivate vitality. The importance of pleasing the woman was also diminished in later texts. The practice was known as Caibu (採補), as a man enters many women without ejaculation. Women were also considered to be a means for men to extend men’s lives. Many of the ancient texts were dedicated explanation of how a man could use sex to extend his own life. But, his life was extended only through the absorption of the woman’s vital energies (jing and qi). Some Taoists called the act of sex “The battle of stealing and strengthening.” These sexual methods could be correlated with Taoist military methods. Instead of storming the gates, the battle was a series of feints and maneuvers that would sap the enemy’s resistance. Some Ming dynasty Taoist sects believed that one way for men to achieve longevity or ‘towards immortality’ is by having intercourse with virgins, particularly young virgins. Taoist sexual books, such as the Hsuan wei Hshin (“Mental Images of the Mysteries and Subtleties of Sexual Techniques”) and San Feng Tan Cheueh (“Zhang Sanfeng’s Instructions in the Physiological Alchemy”), written, respectively, by Zhao Liangpi and Zhang Sanfeng (not to be confused with semi-mythical Zhang Sanfeng who lived in an earlier period), call the woman sexual partner ding () and recommend sex with premenarche virgins. Zhao Liangpi concludes that the ideal ding is a premenarche virgin just under 14 years of age and women older than 18 should be avoided. Zhang Sanfeng went further and divided ding into three ranks: the lowest rank, 21- to 25-year-old women; the middle rank, 16- to 20-year-old menstruating virgins; the highest rank, 14-year-old premenarche virgins. RefRef

Sexism in Bahaism:

Highest leadership of the religion where only men Central figures: Bahá’u’lláh The Báb `Abdu’l-Bahá aso all men.

Women are excluded from serving on the religion’s highest governing body, the Universal House of Justice, which is confined to men only is sexist and does constitute evidence of the Bahá’í Faith support of superiority of men over women.

In 1997, a Canadian fantasy writer was disenrolled, primarily for his outspokenness on email forums for women’s full inclusion in Baha’i administration. Furthermore, in the Baha’i Faith there are particular cases of assignment of different roles to women and men at the level of individual life, family, and society.

By Damien Marie AtHope