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A debate on the public role of religion and its social and gender implications

Phillips, Anne and Casanova, Jose (2009) A debate on the public role of religion and its social and gender implications. Gender and development programme papers (PP-GD-5). United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva, Switzerland.

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In feminist, as in mainstream, thinking, there has been a reassessment of the relationship between religion and politics. For much of the twentieth century, it was assumed that religion was at odds with gender equality, and campaigners for women’s rights looked to the spread of secular principles and attitudes as an important engine of change. But the notion that secularism, understood as the complete separation of politics from religion, is the precondition for progressive politics has been challenged by critics of the secularization thesis, including José Casanova. Specifically within feminism, it has been challenged by the importance attached to women’s agency, and the need to respect the choices of religious as well as non-religious women. Yet religions can and do threaten gender equality, and particularly so when their authority over their members is enhanced by a formal or informal role in the political system. The essay argues that Casanova does not engage sufficiently with the severity of this issue, and that his resolution is too complacent both in its celebration of the democratic engagements of civil society, and its reliance on movements for internal reform. Civil society is not a neutral zone, and the associations that constitute civil society can reproduce social hierarchies and exclusions as often as they contest them. Internal reform, moreover, will be hardest to mobilize precisely where it is most needed...

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 UNRISD
Divisions: Government
Gender Studies
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Departments > Gender Institute
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2013 12:53
Last Modified: 25 May 2020 23:29
Projects: Religion, politics and gender equality

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