Religion and gender equality

‘Is it right for religions to treat men and women differently?’

The background for this debate was a recent vote by the General Synod (decision-making body) of the Church of England not to allow women to become bishops, which was met with dismay both within and outside the church. In the Roman Catholic Church women cannot be ordained at all, and leadership roles are reserved for men in many of the other world religions.

The survey we commissioned found that just 8% of the general population and 11% of Anglicans approve of the Church of England’s policies on women. Support for the Roman Catholic Church’s even stricter policies is even lower among the general population at 6% although Catholics are somewhat more approving of their own church at 22%

The majority of people in Britain think that religions would be better if more women held senior positions. If you rely more on God, religious leaders and teachings than you do on your own judgement, then you are much more likely to disapprove of women leaders in religion. Of the 5% among the population who do disapprove of women’s leadership, there are twice as many men as women.

Church leaderships and hierarchy are increasingly adrift from consensus views on gender equality among their own membership and the population at large


“I’m a woman and I don’t deny that I am different from a man. But our brains aren’t different and our hearts aren’t different and our souls aren’t different. In every respect that pertains to religion we’re exactly the same. So how can it possibly be right for religions to treat us differently and particularly to treat us worse than men?”

Mary Ann Sieghart

“It’s not politically correct at all to admit it, but I think it’s true to say that most of us experience differences in the way that men and women perceive themselves and the world. It’s not good or bad, but a reality that I think we deny at our peril.”

Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski

“I want to emphasise that in Islam, repeated in the Quran many times, men and women are equal … Where Islamic law treats men and women differently it is in the places where it takes into account their real differences, their biological differences, our psychological differences.”

Fatima Barkatulla

Some media reaction

More Muslims than Anglicans approve of the Church of England’s current policies towards women, a new poll suggests … Professor Linda Woodhead, Director of the Religion and Society Programme at Lancaster University, said that the poll results showed ‘that the Churches are seriously out of step, not only with society, but with their own members.’

Ed Thornton, Church Times, 8 March 2013


Reform, whose Director Rod Thomas was one of the debate speakers, lists various resources explaining their approach to gender difference and women’s ministry

For an alternative, evangelical Church of England viewpoint, Fulcrum has a searchable archive of articles

Interview with Jimmy Carter about women and religion

This event was held at QEIICC, Westminster, Thursday 14 March 2013


  • Charles Clarke

    Charles was Labour Member of Parliament for Norwich South, which he remained until May 1997 –...

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  • Fatima Barkatulla

    Fatima Barkatulla is a British-born Muslim who has pursued her Islamic studies both in Britain and...

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  • Harvey Belovski

    Rabbi Harvey Belovski has been Rabbi of the Golders Green congregation since 2003, which he...

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  • Linda Woodhead

    Linda is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University and Director of the Religion...

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  • Mary Ann Sieghart

    Mary Ann Sieghart has spent most of her life as a journalist and broadcaster, working for The...

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  • Rod Thomas

    Rod Thomas is the Chairman of Reform, an evangelical network within the Church of England committed...

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  • Religious Inequality Introduction

  • Intro by Rod Thomas

  • Intro by Mary Ann Sieghart

  • Intro by Harvey Belovski

  • Intro by Fatima Barkatulla

  • Intro by Linda Woodhead

  • Religious Inequality Part 1

  • Religious Inequality Part 2


One Response to Religion and gender equality

  1. TV says:

    Men and women are different, so we should be treated in different manner. “Brain Sex” – there is a good lecture by Anne Moir & David Jessel…

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