Religion has a powerful force over humanity. It affects people from different places with different background, traditions, and cultures. It influences people’s thoughts, conscience, decisions, approaches, actions, and behaviors. For some people, religion may serve as their backbone because they find strength and courage from it. It is their guide in doing what is right. However, this idea also depends on the person. If they are influenced and brought up to be faithful, then they follow the teachings and practices of their religion. If they are not taught or conditioned to be faithful, then they will disregard what is being taught by religion. Religion shapes values and conscience. It guides people to identify which is acceptable, and it also gives them a signal if something is right or wrong. Furthermore, it can affect one’s superego or conscience (in layman’s term). In a book authored by Engler (2012), Sigmund Freud’s view of superego is explained; it is stated that:
Superego is the last function of the personality to develop and may be seen as an outcome of the interactions with one’s parents during the long period of childhood dependency. Conscience and ego-ideal are two subsystems of superego. Conscience is the capacity for self-evaluation, criticism, and reproach. Ego-ideal is the ideal self-image consisting of approved and rewarded behaviors, and the source of pride and a concept of who we think we should be.
The introduction or discussion of religion can be integrated in parent-child interaction. Aside from parent-child interaction, the child can also be influenced by people and circumstances in his environment. In this way, a child can absorb the significance of religion and the consequences of not following the teachings of religion. Of course, this can also vary depending on the child’s family and society. In our society, men and women have different roles and functions. In the past, husbands were expected to provide food for the family, and wives were expected to be left at home to provide care for their children. Nowadays, however, wives have their share in the family’s needs. As the family is getting larger because of the increasing number of children, some wives and husbands might be pressured because of the increasing needs and expenses of the family, but some are not pressured by this because of being childless. Women, either married or not, are responsible for their bodies. They can decide about the number of children that they can have, or they can choose how they can have children. They can have freedom because they own their bodies, and they own their ovaries. However, even if they have the freedom to decide, there are still restrictions by laws and cultures, and most especially by their religion. Rowatt and Schmitt (2003) found that “individuals with intrinsic religious motivation, those who internalize religious teachings and values, were more sexually restricted and desired less sexual variety than those with extrinsic religious motivation” (as cited in Abbott, Harris, & Mollen 2016). Different religions have their own views regarding sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception. They have their own approaches in regulating the society. However, it is important to show the background of different religions first in order to have a thorough knowledge of the topic.
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According to Spiritual Reality (2018), “there are no exact statistics regarding the number of religions existing in the world, but recent estimates suggest that there may be about 4,200 different religions currently in practice” (“Different Types of Religions”, para 4). Based on this source, the major world religions are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Bahá’í Faith, Jainism, Zoroāstrianism. The other faiths are Shintoism, Cao Đài, Confucianism, Taoism, Druze, Wicca, and Totemism. The brief descriptions of these religions, taken from Spiritual Reality (2018), are indicated below:
According to Spiritual Reality (2018), “there are no exact statistics regarding the number of religions existing in the world, but recent estimates suggest that there may be about 4,200 different religions currently in practice” (“Different Types of Religions”, para 4). Based on this source, the major world religions are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Bahá’í Faith, Jainism, Zoroāstrianism. The other faiths are Shintoism, Cao Đài, Confucianism, Taoism, Druze, Wicca, and Totemism. The brief descriptions of these religions, taken from Spiritual Reality (2018), are indicated below:
Christianity, the monotheistic (belief in one God) and Abrahamic (tracing its origins to Abraham, a biblical patriarch found in Christianity, Judaism as well as Islam) religion, is one of the largest of the world religions, with followers spread across all the continents (Different Types of Religions, para 5).
Christianity is based on the life, experiences, and teachings of Jesus Christ. It considers Jesus to be the Son of God. He is thus, a divine being born into the mortal world, and has both, divine as well as mortal affiliations (Different Types of Religions, para 6). Islam is also a monotheistic Abrahamic religion, like Christianity. The followers of Islam are known as Muslims, and its teachings are lucidly expressed in the Qur’an, its sacred text. The words written in the Qur’an are considered to be the verbatim words of God himself, brought and taught to the mortals by His prophets (Different Types of Religions, para 9). Hinduism is a predominant henotheistic (belief in one God but not refusing the existence of the others, who may also be worshiped) religion of the Indian sub-continent, and is considered to be the oldest surviving religious tradition in the world. The religion developed step by step throughout the ages, and has no designated founder. Adherents of Hinduism are known as Hindus. The faith developed, initially as Sanātana Dharma (the eternal law), and later on as Brahmanism, before it could consolidate at a later date as Hinduism. Because the religion does not bear one particular founder, it also does not have one particular/standardized philosophy. On the contrary, diverse ethnic and cultural traditions went on assimilating into each other, as they spread through various religious movements in the entire Indian sub-continent. The end result was an independent religious tradition devoid of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy (Different Types of Religions, para13).
Buddhism originated as a heterodox religious ideology, sometime between 600 B.C. and 400 B.C., in the Indian subcontinent. When the orthodox Brahmanism became very stringent and exploitative, especially towards the lower classes, Siddhartha Gautama, commonly called the Buddha (the enlightened one), came up with new philosophical doctrines, and established a sect of yellow-robed followers belonging to all strata of the society (Different Types of Religions, para 17). Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded by Gurū Nānak in the 15th century, is one of the world’s youngest religions. This religious faith, established in the Punjab region of northwestern India with a limited number of followers in the beginning, is today, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Even today, though Sikh diaspora is quite visibly present in numerous parts of the world, Punjab remains the only region, where majority of the population is Sikh (Different Types of Religions, para 23). The God of the Sikhs is called Wāhegurū. He is omnipresent and possesses infinite power to create, sustain, and destroy. But, at the same time, he is niraṅkār (shapeless), akāl (timeless), and alakh (sightless). The expression ēk ōaṅkār (the supreme reality) represents the universality of Godhead. It is believed that the entire universe was created by God, and will be destroyed by Him, and that everything that happens around, is according to His will (Different Types of Religions, para 24). Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths, which also include Christianity and Islam. It is also one of the oldest monotheistic religions of the world. It was founded in the Middle East, around 3,500 years ago, by a prophet called Moses, to whom, it is believed that God revealed his laws and commandments. The Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible is the Jewish canonical text through which most of the religion has been studied and understood. In Judaism, the concept of God, and His relationship with humankind has been brought out in a very interesting manner. The Jews believe that there is only one God, and that they have a set agreement, a covenant with Him. In return for all the good things which the God endows people with, they have to abide by His laws, and live a sacred life spreading peace and harmony in the world. It is this ‘give and take relationship’ with God that gives Him human characteristics, and thus makes Him all the more approachable. But, on the other hand, owing to this one to one relationship with God, every single act that a Jew performs may be considered as the act of worship. In lieu of this, the Jews have the Halakha, a collection of their religious laws, the basis of which, is the Torah, the five books dictated to Moses by the Almighty (Different Types of Religions, para 27). The Bahá’í Faith, one of the youngest monotheistic religious traditions in the world, was founded in Iran in 1863 by a man called Bahá’u’lláh. The very crux of this faith lies in the spiritual unity of mankind, which can be achieved if all individuals function in harmony for the common benefit of human race. The divine messengers/prophets of God, form the base of this faith. It is believed that the history of humankind can be unraveled through the teachings of a series of divine messengers, who established their own religious faiths according to the need of the period during which they lived. And so, all these messengers, including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, have a prominent place in the faith. According to the Bahá’í beliefs, Bahá’u’lláh is the most recent ‘manifestation of God’ (divine messenger) (Different Types of Religions, para 31). Like Buddhism, Jainism also emerged as a heterodox sect of Brahmanism, which later on transformed as a full-fledged religious ideology. In 600 B.C., Vardhamāna Mahāvira rose to prominence as an important proponent of Jainism, who managed to build up a large group of followers for the faith. The Jain philosophy promotes a non-violent and harmless existence for the welfare of the universe. Traditionally, there have been 24 Tirthankāras (ford-makers), who preached the faith, and aided people to achieve salvation. (Different Types of Religions, para 35). Jainism does not believe in the concept of God as a supreme entity. On the contrary, they believe in venerating mortal beings, who are worthy of worship. Jainism has thus been regarded as a transtheistic faith, in which the existence of God is debatable. The Jains do worship images of the Tirthankāras in their temples, and all of these images bear elaborate iconographies. However, the purpose of worship in Jainism, is to attain spiritual purification. Furthermore, monasticism and meditation have been regarded important in the Jain faith. (Different Types of Religions”, para 37). Founded by prophet Zoroāster in ancient Persia (present day Iran) about 3,500 years ago, Zoroāstrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. For about 1,000 years after its foundation, the religion remained one of the most influential faiths in the world, and it was also the official religion of Persia from 600 B.C. to 650 A.D. The adherents of Zoroastrianism are known as the Zoroastrians (Different Types of Religions, para 39). Shintoism is an indigenous Japanese faith, at the heart of which lies devotion to invisible spirits called Kami, and the various shrines. Various rituals facilitating a dialog with the Kami form the crux of Shintoism. There is no concept of ‘evil’ or ‘sin’ in the Shinto faith, and all human beings are considered to be inherently ‘good’. There is no concept of transcendental world in Shintoism.
Everything, including spiritual experience, belongs to this world where we all live. There is no founder, no god, and no canons of the faith. It may be practiced alongside some other religion as well (Different Types of Religions, para 44). Cao Đài or Caodaiism is a relatively newer faith, established in Southern Vietnam in 1926. The Caodaiists claim that the religion has been revealed to the humans directly by God, and so there are no divine messengers/prophets in the faith. The bottom line of the faith is straightforward and simple. They believe that there is only one God – Allah, the Buddha, Tao, Đức Cao Đài (God in Caodaiism), etc. are all different names of the same entity – who is the creator and regulator of the universe and its processes. The message that Caodaiism intends to convey is that all humans, irrespective of the faith they practice, are equal because the source of their creation is one (Different Types of Religions, para 45). Confucianism as a way of life, was put forth by a Chinese philosopher named K’ung-fu-tzu (Confucius is the westernized version of the name), roughly in the 6th-5th century B.C. With his ideology, he intended to build a perfect society, and believed that if people exhibited ‘beautiful conduct’, the society could improve to a great extent. The ideology promoted five basic virtues viz., righteousness, kindness, wisdom, trustworthiness, and sobriety. At its inception, it was not intended to be a religion; rather it was supposed to be viewed as a philosophical school of thought. But, after the death of Confucius, temples were erected in his honor, with elaborate rituals taking place in them. In Confucianism, God is not viewed as creator of the universe. On the contrary, He is perceived as the one who created various virtues in the human beings (Different Types of Religions, para 46). Also referred to as Daoism, Taoism originated in China some 2,500 years ago. Traditionally, Laozi is regarded as the founder of this faith, and also the author of their sacred text, Tao Te Ching (conception of the Tao). Taoism revolves around the Tao, the ultimate creative principle of the universe. Reaching the Tao is the ultimate goal of a devoted Taoist individual, which he can achieve by staying in close contact with nature. In fact, the Taoist philosophy promotes the interdependent relationship between man and nature. The Tao pantheon consists of a number of deities, major and minor, who function as intermediaries between the humans and the Tao. The main aim of Taoism is the achievement of spiritual immortality (Different Types of Religions, para 47). Druze, as a religious ideology, emerged in the 11th century. It is centered primarily across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. It is a monotheistic faith, which claims that God can neither be understood, nor be defined by the humans. Reincarnation is one of the central beliefs of the Druze belief system, which states that all souls, irrespective of whether they are good or bad, are reborn as humans. Heaven and hell are regarded as spiritual stages that either help the souls unite with the divine, or make them reincarnate, depending on their deeds. Only Druze leaders have access to their religious texts, and not the ordinary members of the faith. They are allowed to hide their religion whenever needed, especially in adverse situations, which is what makes the faith unique. The symbol of the Druze faith, the Druze star, bears five colors symbolizing five different things viz., green (mind), red (soul), yellow (word), blue (willpower), and white (understanding of the material world) (Different Types of Religions, para 48). Wicca is a paganistic faith that practices religious witchcraft and magic. The Wiccans worship the God as well as the Goddess, and believe that the combined powers of both of them can lead to the completion of the universe. The Wiccans also worship the Divine in nature. There is no religious hierarchy in Wicca. No doubt there are priests and priestesses, but there are also people who function singularly, or teachers who train the new recruits. All of them are placed on the same level. Most rituals of the Wiccans are held at night, either in the moonlight or by the bonfires or within the consecrated spaces at home or in the temple. Wiccans do practice ritualistic magic and perform spells for healing, and for helping people with their problems. The Wiccan ethical code states that magic may only be performed, if it does not harm anyone. The concept of reincarnation in the Wiccan religion is slightly different from the other faiths. They believe that the process of reincarnation continues until an individual has gained all the knowledge of the world. Once the process ceases, the spirit remains is a blissful realm called the Land of Youth (Different Types of Religions, para 49). Totemism is a superstitious belief system, especially amongst the primitive clans/groups, claiming that there exists a spiritual relationship/kinship between members of a particular clan/society, and certain other natural objects such as animals and plants. These natural objects, thus become totems of various groups that believe that they have descended from their respective totems. A totem, hence becomes an object of veneration for the entire clan. There have been ongoing debates on whether or not Totemism is a religion. But, it does share syncretic links with other beliefs such as ancestor worship, animism, etc. (Different Types of Religions, para 50).
Women can determine what to do with their lives. They can express their sexuality. They can decide how to control the number of their children. They can decide if they want to have children or not. They can choose what to do when they are pregnant. They can try different ways in order to limit the number of their children. However, these actions or decisions have corresponding consequences which can affect themselves and other people as well. The effects of religion’s control on women’s ovaries, how and why women are being controlled through their ovaries by different religions are included in different paragraphs below. In our society, there are laws or rules that people are either obliged or encouraged to follow in order to maintain peace and order. There are also practices that different religions show how women are controlled through their ovaries. Religion’s control of women’s ovaries refers to control of women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception.
The Wikipedia detailed the Taoist sexual practices; it explained both men and women’s sexual experiences. However, the author noticed that the Taoists favored men more than women when it comes to sexual pleasure. The focus was almost always about pleasing men, and women were used like a tool wherein a man could achieve satisfaction. “Taoist sexual practices refer literally to the bedroom arts. These practices are also known as Joining Energy or the Joining of the Essences” (Taoist Sexual Practices, para 1). Practitioners believe that one can have good health and live a long life (for spiritual advancement) when these sexual arts are done. Women were often inferior when it comes to sexual practice. In many texts, sex was discussed from a male’s perspective, and avoided how women could benefit from it. Men were urged to have sex not only to one woman and were also informed to do it only with beautiful and childless women. Although a man also had to please the woman sexually, she was only an object. The woman was considered as the enemy during the Ishinpo, because she was the reason why a man could spill his semen and lose vitality as well. Women lost all aspects of being human and were considered as the “other”, “crucible”, or “stove”, because it is through them that men cultivated vitality. The significance of pleasing the woman likewise dwindled in later texts (Taoist Sexual Practices, para 11). Women were also a way for men to extend their lives. How a man could use sex to extend his own life is explained in many ancient texts. However, a man could extend his life only when he absorbed a woman’s vital energies (jing and qi) (Taoist Sexual Practices, para 12).
The study of Halabi (2014), “The Faith, the Honor of Women, the Land: The Druze Women in Israel”, insinuates control of women because men are more tolerated to express and enjoy their sexuality, but women are not. Women are expected to be morally pure or decent but men have sexual freedom. Women still accept the double standards of a patriarchal society despite the fact that such is biased. The paragraph below refers to its abstract:
This study investigates the status of the Druze women in Israel, focusing on the effects of the frequent interactions between the Druze and the more permissive Jewish-Western society. The main question posed is why Druze women accept the double standards of freedom, especially on sexual morality, that expect them to be chaste but allow sexual freedom to men. I argue that this is a patriarchal deal, in which women trade their sexual freedom in exchange for access to higher education, and to the prestigious status of moral guardians from western temptations. The paper is based on narrative analysis of in-depth interviews conducted with 50 Druze students, half of them male and half female, enrolled in Israeli universities (“The Faith, the Honor of Women”, para 1).
According to Jayaram, in Zoroastrian scriptures, there is a code of conduct for women; it is suggested that women should be watched regularly because they are prone to temptations of evil. They are expected to emulate Spenta Aramaiti and cultivate love, devotion, sincerity, and perfection. According to Arda Viraf, women who desire to go to heaven should respect water, fire, earth, trees, cattle, sheep, and the good creations of God. They should conduct religious ceremonies wholeheartedly, offer prayers and service to God and the spiritual beings. They should honor and respect their husbands and lords and should practice and believe the faith of Mazdayasnians. They should have good thoughts, good words, good actions, and refrain from sin. Adultery and unnatural intercourse are heinous sins (“Gender Equality”, para 10). On the basis of conduct, the Denkard categorizes women into four classes: “good as well as bad; not bad, and good; not good, and bad; and neither good nor bad”. The woman that should be chosen to manage the household affairs of the master of the house is someone who is good, not bad. A woman who is good and bad should not be obtained in order to avoid unhappiness. Men should be careful in choosing from the descriptions of women which are mentioned above (“Gender Equality”, para 11). The best woman according to Meno-i-khard is young, properly disposed, faithful, respected, good natured, enlivens the house, modest, virtuous, a friend of her own father and sisters, husband and guardian, handsome and full of animation (“Gender Equality”, para 12). Although Zoroastrians’ control of women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception is not so elaborate in the ideas above, the religion’s view of women is stereotypical. Women are expected to behave in certain ways and are still somewhat subordinate to men. Likewise, women are advised not to commit adultery and unnatural intercourse because these are heinous sins.
In Shintoism, Keller (2012) discussed rituals which involve birth and marriage. Sometime after birth, the infant is brought to the shrine in order to be purified by priests. The bride and groom are also purified as part of marriage (Shinto, para 39). He also pointed out the women in Shintoism. He explained that women and men were equal before the influence of Chinese came to Japan. However, when the Chinese came (particularly Buddhism and Confucianism), women became subordinate to men, and that is the position of women in Shinto life today (Shinto, para 40). Consequently, women being subordinate to men because of the influence of Chinese (particularly Buddhism and Confucianism), merely shows the control of religion over women.
Mahajan, Pimple, Palsetia, Dave, & De Sousa (2013) elaborated Jainism’s influence on sexuality and marriage. Marriage is recommended so that the children of the couple would have the same dharma (religion). The purpose of marriage is to make sex legal. Sex is strictly procreational and is done only during the ovulation period (“Indian Religious Concepts”, para 18). Jains also favor to have their sons and daughters married within the community so that their children will also have the same dharma. They condemn the practice of giving dowry. Jainism sees to it that celibacy-chaste is the norm. “The highest ideals of classical or traditional Jainism are represented by the ascetics-the members of the faith who devote their whole lives to living the Jain code of ethics in its strictest forms”. “Jain monks and nuns are expected to remain completely celibate in body and mind”. “Chaste living is important to Jains because sexual indulgence gets in the way of the road to liberation. Jain monks and nuns practice strict asceticism and strive to make their current birth their last, thus ending their cycle of transmigration”. Sexual passion can defeat rational thinking and ethically right behavior, hence can result to bad karma (deeds). The purpose of this vow is to defeat passions which waste energy caused by pleasurable desires. The monks understand the power of sex and are advised not to indulge in it. Before they became monks, they avoided thinking about sex and they also avoided remembering sexual incidents. Jains must have sex only with their husband and wife but must avoid sexual indulgence. If possible, they must give up sex after having a son. The husband must be satisfied with his own wife, and must regard other women as his sisters, mothers, and daughters. Some Jain writers suggest that even married people should avoid over indulging in sexual activities. Chaste living also means that Jains should avoid sexual thoughts and sex before marriage. They should not look at pornographic or sexually stimulating material. Sexual deviations, such as contact with animal and inanimate objects should be avoided. (“Indian Religious Concepts”, para 19). In Jainism, both men and women are encouraged to maintain purity just like monks and nuns because too much sexual passion can defeat their rational thinking, thus might lead them to do horrible acts which are punishable. Although, these ideas apply both to men and women, the explanation of the authors also show control of women’s ovaries.
In a journal made by Randhawa and Alrowaili (2017), they explored on the topic, Abstinence, Marriage, and Religions for the Prevention and Control of HIV Infection and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The paragraph below is the abstract of their article:
About 84% of world’s population is linked to five major religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. One thing common in these religions is marriage, which is a life-long cultural and spiritual union between man and women. Religions give great emphasis to marriage and discourage immorality and adultery. In Holy Bible, it is narrated, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). Holy Quran describes, “And among His (God Almighty) signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, that you may find peacefulness in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy, verily, in that are signs for a people who reflect” (30; 21). In Judaism, marriage is an important event and avoiding from it is considered as unnatural. In Buddhism and Hinduism, marriage is also a sacred ceremony and lifelong commitment between wife and husband. Center for Diseases Control and Prevention recommends to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex; or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Marriage is an excellent mod of mutual relationship between spouses, provides ample opportunity for sex entertainment and together with religious attitude helps to abstain from sex outside marriage. Present article is aimed to promote marriage and religions for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly Human Immune-deficiency Virus infection, which is becoming epidemic worldwide and there is no effective vaccine or treatment for that so far. (p.1)
Furthermore, In Randhawa and Alrowaili”s (2017) article, they concluded that:
The basic teachings about marriage and extra marital sex, that can help to control HIV infection and other STDs, are almost the same in all major religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. The individuals and communities who follow these instructions religiously they benefit, and those who do not practice their chances to get HIV and other STDs are enhanced. Like a patient when comply the prescription of his doctor benefits and if doesn’t would suffer. Therefore, there is an immense need to propagate the original words of the Lord, God and Allah Almighty pertaining to marriage and marital relationship for the best interest of the entire mankind. (p.5).
Although the above article is generally for men and women, women are also affected and are bound to follow the teachings of their corresponding religion in order to avoid HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Religion also encourages them to be faithful to their husbands in order to avoid adultery or extra marital affairs. Abbott, Harris, & Mollen (2016) explained that “religious commitment is associated with decreased sexual activity, poor sexual satisfaction, and sexual guilt, particularly among women” (p. 1). The effect of religion on women’s sexual self-esteem is presented below:
Women with high religious commitment held more conservative sexual attitudes. Significant relationships between religious commitment and two subscales (moral judgment and attractiveness) of the SSEI-W revealed that women with high religious commitment were less likely to perceive sex as congruent with their moral values and simultaneously reported significantly greater confidence in their sexual attractiveness. A significant relationship between religious commitment and overall sexual self-esteem was found for women whose religion of origin was Catholicism, such that those with higher religious commitment reported lower sexual self-esteem. A hierarchical regression analysis revealed that high religious commitment and perception that God viewed sex negatively independently predicted lower sexual self-esteem, as related to moral judgment. Implications of the findings are provided. (Abbot et al., 2016, p. 1).
Hunt and Jung (2009) asserted that “religion often serves as the gatekeeper of what is deemed acceptable sexual practice. Religious standards and expectations around sex are typically particularly restrictive for women” (as cited in Abbott et al., 2016, p. 1069). Miller 2013 also stated that “most of the major world religions are situated within patriarchy, a system linked with the history of oppression of women” (as cited in Abbott et al., 2016, p. 1069). In a conservative country, women are like placed within specific boundaries especially when it comes to sexuality. Chaste women are regarded highly and promiscuous women are underestimated. Women are prohibited to explore their sexuality, but men are more tolerated because they are accepted to be “masculine”, and such trait is considered as normal for them. Men are more tolerated to explore their sexuality, but women are considered as “sinful”, “flirt”, “filthy” once they are liberated. It may be true that people in conservative countries have different views regarding women’s sexuality, but chaste women are highly praised.
Abbott et al. (2016) also showed the exploratory analysis of their study, entitled “The Impact of Religious Commitment on Women’s Sexual Self-Esteem”:
An exploratory analysis revealed that women who were raised Catholic had lower overall sexual self-esteem. The same was true for women who currently identified as Protestant and reported sexually permissive attitudes. The majority of participants identified as Christian (40.3 %), rather than a more specific denomination. It is possible that these participants retain a belief in Christian values without participation in organized forms of Christian faith. Additionally, the measure of religious commitment in this study did not require frequent church attendance in order to be considered religiously committed. Therefore, it may be that the majority of participants in the current study were not frequently exposed to the restrictive sexual messages regarding women’s sexuality that are sometimes communicated through religious authorities. Those who identified with a specific, formal denomination within Christianity may have attended services or encountered restrictive messages more frequently and, in turn, developed lower sexual self-esteem. (p. 1078).
In a positive perspective, enhanced spirituality due to religion also has positive influences on people, especially on women. Oman & Thorensen (2002) elaborated that:
There are four prominent pathways in which religion influences health: health behaviors (through prescribing a certain diet and/or discouraging the abuse of alcoholic beverages, smoking, etc., religion can protect and promote a healthy lifestyle), social support (people can experience social contact with co-religionists and have a web of social relations that can help and protect whenever the case), psychological states (religious people can experience a better mental health, more positive psychological states, more optimism and faith, which in turn can lead to a better physical state due to less stress) and ‘psi’ influences (supernatural laws that govern ‘energies’ not currently comprehended by science but possibly understandable at some point by science). Because spirituality/religion influences health through these pathways, they act in an indirect way on health (as cited in Rumun, 2014, p.39).
The ideas Oman & Thorensen may help women to look at religion positively. Although religions’ views have similarities and differences in terms of beliefs and practices, generally however, they aim to promote one’s spiritual, physical, and psychological health. Kaur (2018) stated that “In Sikhism a married woman performs a very useful role in society through maintaining sexual discipline and establishing a morally healthy society. She is an embodiment of virtue and fortitude and not a force that seduces man to evil” (“All About Sikhs”, para 11). Through religion, women have certain guidelines that will help them to function normally in a society. Although it can be biased at times because in some societies, men are more tolerated to express their sexuality, and women were more controlled. Different religions have laws which are common to men and women. With regard to pregnancy and contraception, women are affected because they are the ones that give birth. However, there are some ways that also affect men when it comes to controlling women’s pregnancy.
Hinduism has its beliefs regarding sexuality and family; Srikanthan & Reid (2008) expressed that “Sexual relationships are to be experienced and mutually enjoyed within the limits of marriage. Such relations are for both procreation and pleasure. Marriage is viewed as essential for the stability of social order” (p. 133). Although such belief applies to both men and women, this shows that women are not encouraged to be promiscuous and are not also allowed to enjoy their sexuality with their partners without marriage.
If a woman is pregnant and she does not like to have it, she cannot just resort to abortion. There are practices that different religions adhere to. Rumun (2014) stated that:
In Baha faith, termination of pregnancy is permitted only where there are strong medical grounds such as risk to the life and health of the mother. It is not regarded lightly and is not permitted as a social or contraceptive measure. Whether it is acceptable in any specific case is for consultation between the patient and her medical attendant in the light of this guidance. The rearing of children is regarded as one of the main reasons for the institution of marriage, but the details and extent of contraceptive practice are left to the conscience of the couple. Many Bahá’ís will not use the intra-uterine device for contraception as they regard it more as an obortifacient than a contraceptive (p. 41). Buddhists believe that life begins at conception and so do not condemn contraception. However, as abortion and active euthanasia are seen as taking life they are condemned (p.41). Strictly speaking orthodox Muslims do not approve of contraception, in practice, individuals vary widely in their approach. Abortion is frowned upon but is often tolerated if it is for medical reasons (p. 43). Immediately after birth the father or other family members would read a short prayer while holding the infant. Muslim women are encouraged to breast-feed. Contraception is accepted by many Muslims, with the consent of the couple and if the method is safe. Abortion or termination of pregnancy is only allowed if there is a serious medical condition for the mother. The older the pregnancy the more difficult the ethical issue, and days 40 and 120 of pregnancy are important milestones (p. 44).
Simply, in Baha faith, abortion or termination of pregnancy is not allowed to be used as a contraceptive method or to avoid having children. It is allowed only when the mother’s life and health are at risk. Of course, the mother has to consult a medical attendant and undergo a thorough check-up in order to identify if it is advisable to continue the pregnancy. Children, in Baha Faith, are valuable because they are the main reason why marriage can be considered as an institution, so couples should use their conscience in determining the appropriate contraceptive method. Buddhists condemn abortion because they believe that life begins at conception. Muslim couples use contraception only when it is safe and they do not also approve of abortion; they resort to abortion only if the mother has a serious medical condition.
Christian denominations vary in terms of views on abortion. Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and some Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations hold the strongest opposition to abortion. Other denominations, particularly Protestant Churches have relatively less categorical stances (UNFPA, 2016, p. 54). Pope John Paul II stated (in 1995) that “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception”. There are two laws in the Code of Canon Law that refer to abortion. Canon 1398 stated that “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication”. Canon 1329 stated that “Accomplices who are not named in the law…incur a latae sententiae penalty attached to an offense if it would not have been committed without their efforts.” Abortion is an abominable crime for Pope Francis; a violation of one of the Ten Commandments that prohibits to pursue life. Every individual has a right to live, even those who are yet to be born. Pope Francis also pointed out the need to protect the vulnerable, including the unborn. There are countries where abortion is legal. In these countries, there are tensions between women and health professionals because the women want to have an abortion and the health professionals have certain concerns regarding this. These women have their legal right to abortion, but health care professionals also have the right to exercise their religion freely in order to raise issues of ethical objections in law and in practice. This exemplifies Italy’s abortion Law 194 of May 22, 1978 which requires health care institutions to ensure that women have access to abortion. However, the Ministry of Health showed in a 2008 report that a number of conscientious objections increased during the first decade of the twenty-first century, because 70 percent of gynecologists in Italy declined to practice abortion due to moral grounds. The views of Protestant churches differ widely because of circumstances and stage of gestation. Orthodox Church disapproves of abortion, while many Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and Latter Day Saints disapprove of abortion under most circumstances. However, there are many Protestant denominations that consider abortion as a matter for individual conscience (UNFPA, 2016, p.55). In a real context, there are women who want to have abortion but religion controls their conscience. There are women who pursue this despite the teachings of the church regarding abortion and there are also who choose to have or keep the baby because they are affected by their faith and by the pressures of the society as well. In this way, even if they own their bodies, they still have to think of the consequences of their decisions.
In Hinduism contexts, positions on abortion are not uniformly structured or absolute because there are no centrally codified Hindu text or teachings. Customarily, views on abortion continuously evolve. In contemporary view, if the pregnancy is a threat to the well-being of the mother, then the life of the mother is more privileged. Likewise, abortion is recommended in case there is fetus abnormality. According to Hindu sacred texts, physical and spiritual life are merged during conception. “The fetus is not merely a tissue of the mother’s body, but a distinct life with basic attributes of humanity from the moment of its conception”. There are thorough discussions about the fate of the soul, because it is believed that the fetus has a soul. Some believe that the aborted fetus will reincarnate in another body. Hindu classical tradition respects “life in the womb” and considers abortion as a “heinous crime”. In Sanskrit terminology, the difference between abortion and miscarriage is shown in its moral dimension – abortion indicates intention and responsibility, whereas miscarriage is unintentional and morally neutral. India, where Hinduism is dominant, has legalized abortion due to a number of medical, economic, and social reasons. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) allows abortion in order to save a woman’s life, preserve physical health and mental health, terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or incest, and terminate a pregnancy due to fetus impairment. Failure to take a contraceptive method by either the wife or husband is a sufficient ground for abortion. Social and cultural dynamics are linked to the preference of a son and the widely practiced, sex-selection abortion, even though it is illegal. Social stigma and lack of awareness of legal abortion services limit women’s access to abortion. Hence, many women resort to unauthorized providers. Every two hours, a woman dies from unsafe abortion (UNFPA, 2016, p, 51). In Nepal, a law legalizing abortion was passed in 2002. “Abortion can be performed up to 12 weeks of gestation by request and up to 18 weeks of gestation in instances of rape and/or incest”. Abortion is allowed at any time as long as there is approval from a certified medical practitioner. It is permitted in order to save the life of a woman, and if there is fetus impairment. Sex-selection abortion, which is caused by economic and sociocultural norms, is prohibited but still practiced. Lack of awareness, limited access to affordable services, and social stigma are barriers to safe abortion even if abortion is legal. “For instance, local terms for abortion such as garva tuhaune (taking the baby out of the womb) and adhigro phalne (getting rid of half-grown fetus) create a negative environment for those seeking abortion” (UNFPA, 2016, p. 52). Even though women have access to the services of abortion because it is legal, many resort to the services of unauthorized persons for fear of stigma and lack of awareness as well. Such stigma may be caused by the sacred teaching that “the fetus is not merely a tissue of the mother’s body, but a distinct life with basic attributes of humanity from the moment of its conception”. Thus, having abortion may bother one’s conscience which is caused by faith in Hindu teachings and pressures from the society. Women own their bodies and they can do anything which please them, but their faith in their religion or in God, the social pressure about the idea that abortion is a heinous crime, prevent them from having abortion.
UNFPA (2016) also showed the stance on abortion in Muslim Contexts. In Islamic jurisprudence, positions on abortion vary. The law and practice in various Muslim-majority countries also vary. The factors that influence these approaches are the circumstances of pregnancy and stages of gestational development. The “sanctity of human life and a profound respect for the potential human life” is the core of Islamic teaching. Muslim theologians have suggested that abortion is allowed before ensoulment of the fetus (40, 90, or 120 days after conception). “The Qur’an outlines the beginning of life through different stages of fetal development. A majority of scholars hold that the fetus is ensouled at 120 days, thereby becoming a human person and thus, a legal personality” (p. 56). All Islamic legal schools prohibit any attempt to abort a fetus after 120 days and consider it a criminal offense. However, some scholars stated that abortion after 120 days is permissible if the mother’s life is in danger (p.57). Classical Islamic thought shows four positions of abortion, and these are “(1) unconditional permission for termination; (2) conditional permission for termination under justifiable circumstances; (3) abortion is disapproved; and (4) unconditionally prohibited”. Abortion is allowed to protect the mother’s mental health and physical health. It is also allowed when there is fetal impairment and when the mother is a victim of sexual assault. All schools of thought strictly prohibit abortion which is related to illicit sexual activity, like extramarital relationship. However, there are legal opinions that support this in order to protect a woman (p.58).
Loy (2013) also shared the beliefs about abortion in Buddhism. Abortion is a form of killing. According to the earliest tests, the Pali suttas, “the Buddha said that it breaks the first precept to avoid killing or harming any sentient being”. “Any monastic who encourages a woman to have an abortion has committed a serious offense that requires expiation”. We may be surprised about Buddha’s knowledge of the genetic physiology of conception and pregnancy, but the textual prohibition is clearly expressed or understood. The absolute rule in early Buddhism regarding abortion causes discomfort and embarrassment among many Western Buddhists and is often disregarded by those who are aware of it. “Abortion is common in many Asian Buddhist societies, perhaps most of all in Japan, where it has become widely accepted as a form of birth-control (partly because oral contraceptives were not legal until recently)”. “Again, karma relativizes even this prohibition: to break the precept against harming others may create more suffering for yourself, yet that is your own decision – a flexibility precious to many liberal-minded Western Buddhists” (p.2).
Certain practices of Islam affect Muslim women’s sexual and reproductive health. In a journal authored by Arousell and Carlbom (2015), they stated that:
Currently, there are different hypotheses on how Islamic devotion is believed to shape individuals’ sexual and reproductive health and health-related behaviors. A first line of arguments, primarily expressed in epidemiological literature, focuses on risk factors for morbidities caused by Islamic practices. For instance, a study conducted among pregnant Muslim women in the Netherlands revealed that women’s adherence to Ramadan fasting during early pregnancy could lead to lower birth weight of newborns. Researchers in the field subsequently urge for large-scale studies that could investigate the potential perinatal morbidity and mortality, as well as initiatives for health-care providers to gain access to research-driven information on helping pregnant women to make well informed decisions regarding fasting during the month of Ramadan. Other risk factors that are argued to account for Islamic-specific morbidities, although not always related to sexual and reproductive health matters, include rituals during the “Hajj” pilgrimage; prohibition against intake of alcohol and pork meat, which may inhibit the intake of certain medicines; and lack of vitamin D among Muslim women wearing head scarfs. In conclusion, there are suggestions and discussions about correlations between religious practices and low outcomes in health, yet little evidence-based material that can help formulate “best practice” recommendations (p.78-79).
The above paragraph shows that certain practices of Muslims, like Ramadan and “Hajj” pilgrimage can affect the mother’s health while pregnant, and can affect the baby, too. This shows that certain practices of Islam have control of Muslim mothers’ condition while pregnant. This also puts the mother’s health at risk.
Judaism has certain beliefs when it comes to the use of contraception. The following paragraph shows the view of Religions (2014) regarding Judaism and contraception:
Contraception, including artificial contraception, is permitted in Judaism in appropriate circumstances. Reform and Liberal schools of Judaism allow birth control for a wide range of reason. Orthodox Judaism is more restrictive. The methods of contraception allowed under Jewish law are those that do not damage the sperm or stop it getting to its intended destination. These are the contraceptive pill and the IUD. The religious view on birth control is based on two principles: it is a commandment to marry and have children, it is forbidden to ‘waste seed’ (to emit semen while at the same time preventing conception). The modern Orthodox position permits the use of contraception in these cases: when pregnancy or childbirth might harm the mother, to limit the number of children in a family for the benefit of the family, to delay or space out having children, but a married couple should not use contraception for the selfish reason of avoiding having children altogether. The female birth control pill is favoured by Jewish couples because male birth control methods are frowned on. This is because they ‘waste seed’ and because the commandment to have children is primarily directed at men. Condoms are particularly unacceptable because they block the passage of semen, and because they reduce the pleasure husband and wife get from sex and so interfere with one of the natural purposes of intercourse. Rabbis disagree about the use of the diaphragm – some forbid it because it blocks the passage of semen, while others state that it is not forbidden because the semen enters the woman’s body in a normal manner. A birth control method that led to breakthrough bleeding would be a concern for Orthodox Jews as sex is not permitted in the presence of blood. This affects some types of pill and some IUDs (Judaism and Contraception, para 1-9).
The UNFPA (2016) also explained that family planning and contraception are supported by most Jewish scholars and faith leaders. Marriage and family are valued in Judaism, and mothers are regarded highly. However, a childless couple is viewed to be suffering because human procreation is considered as a part of God’s plan. Pregnancy is seen in Judaism not only as a part of women’s lives but a devotion to God as well. Consequently, women may feel obliged to procreate. Contraceptives are available but cultural pressures discourage their use. Israeli rabbinate authorities do not interpret the use of contraceptive methods as a Jewish law violation. Forms of contraception are allowed except condoms and sterilization because they interfere with male fertility. In Judaism, human procreation is a male’s privilege since fertility resides in men’s seed. So, the male also has an obligation to procreate. Thus, Orthodox authorities will generally approve of birth control pills, but will not allow a device that blocks the passage of sperm because this prevents the man from fulfilling his obligation (p.4). The above paragraph includes the obligation of both men and women to procreate, and both are also controlled by Jewish view and cultural pressures. On the part of women, procreation is a devotion to God. Since bearing a child or being a mother is regarded highly, then women may indeed feel pressured to procreate.
Most Christian Theologians consider that the human ability to procreate is a capacity which is given by God. However, there are many debates about this agreement. The Catholics, considered to be the largest single group of Christians globally, have a teaching which limits sex to marriage and compel that the couple should be open to children. Artificial or modern contraceptive methods violate the main role of marriage because it prevents the creation of new life, and therefore viewed as a sin against nature. “Natural family planning is cycle”. The authorized opinion of the Catholic Church regarding contraception is detailed in different Papal Encyclicals (1930, 1968, 1995), and it is debated within Catholic communities. Surveys revealed that Catholic couples ignore the church’s stance on contraception. In rural communities, however, women tend to avoid contraceptives because they fear stigmatization (UNFPA, 2016, p.45). Catholics agree that God has gifted them with the ability to procreate or to have children. However, even if the use of artificial or modern contraceptive methods are considered as a sin against nature in Catholic faith, there are still couples who do not follow the teaching of the Catholic church. There are women who seek help from the doctor and ask for appropriate contraceptive forms despite their knowledge that the church is against it. On the other hand, there are still women who follow the instruction of the church. Catholic women, are still somewhat controlled by the Catholic church, but of course it depends on them whether they will follow or not.
Srikanthan & Reid (2008) also expressed the stance of the Roman Catholics on contraception. The details are indicated below:
within Catholicism, the primary purpose of marriage and sexual intercourse is procreation. Every act of intercourse must remain open to conception. Contraception destroys any potential to produce new life and violates the principal purpose of marriage. This contraception ban is against unnatural means of contraception, which include chemical and barrier methods. Abstinence and the rhythm method are the only officially approved methods of birth spacing. These forms of family planning may be used for medical, economic, and social indications. Contraceptive intent and results when these methods are used are no longer considered sinful. All other forms of birth control are forbidden. In Catholicism, new life is treated as a person from the moment of conception. All forms of abortion and emergency contraception are prohibited except for measures normally taken to save a mother that result in the death of the fetus (p.130).
Both Judaism and Catholicism believe that marriage is for procreation, and this is also the time when both husband and wife can enjoy sexual intercourse. They also have their own views regarding the use of birth control methods. The Jewish law allows the use of birth control pill and IUD but forbids the use of condom because it blocks the semen and it is forbidden to waste seed. However, in Catholicism, abstinence and rhythm method are the only allowed birth spacing methods.
Various Orthodox communities are different in terms of approach. The Orthodox churches believe that sexual activity is only for married couples. The Eastern Orthodox Church only approves of the rhythm method and opposes all family planning methods. Other Orthodox Churches allow married couples to plan or regulate the size of their family without specifying allowable methods. “In Russia, the political leadership has promoted traditional patriarchal family values in order to curb the trend towards low birth rates, with the active support of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church has encouraged large families and traditional family values” (UNFPA, 2016, p.46).
Eastern Orthodox also explained their beliefs regarding contraception. Srikanthan & Reid (2008) likewise explained the beliefs of Eastern Orthodox regarding contraception (2008). They expressed that:
The morality of contraception continues to be discussed in modern Orthodoxy. At its strictest, the Orthodox Church permits only abstinence as a method of contraception. The sole purpose of sex is procreation. Increasing consensus in Orthodox theology affirms a more liberal line of thought: the intention to conceive children within the sacrament of marriage does not prohibit the regulation of births. Contraception may be used only within marriage; however, a mentality that excludes children on principle is unacceptable. Officially, the Eastern Orthodox Church has not prohibited contraception. Any method that does not destroy the product of conception may be used; the contraceptive method decision is left to the discretion of the couple. Permanent forms of contraception may not be used unless a morally justifiable reason exists, such as unavoidable genetic disease, conditions that make raising children impossible, or unacceptable risk of maternal morbidity or mortality (p.130-131).
Many Protestant denominations (over 20,000) have different opinions about family planning, but many, probably most, have supported family planning and modern contraceptive methods for some decades. “Most churches do not support the provision of services to unmarried couples but in practice health clinics may do so based on pragmatic arguments”. Some Pentecostal and Evangelical groups are against contraceptive methods, especially those that they consider as abortifacients (UNFPA, 2016, p.45).
Srikanthan & Reid (2008) elaborated the beliefs of Protestants regarding the use of contraceptive methods. They also pointed out something about abortion. The details are expressed below:
Literal interpretation of the Bible has resulted in disapproval of contraception among conservative Protestants, such as Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants; the use of contraception would violate God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” Although mainstream conservative Protestants believe that marriages should be procreative, there are no prohibitions against using contraception within a marriage that already has children. Reproductive health decisions, such as the final size of the family, the appropriate conditions for contraception and the choice of contraception, are left to the discretion of the couple. Virtually all liberal Christian communities accept the use of contraception within marriage for the purpose of exercising responsible parenthood, enhancing marital love, and protecting women’s health. Health care providers should begin contraception discussions with Protestant patients by determining which Protestantism denomination the couple are affiliated with and whether they adhere to conservative beliefs about contraception. Protestantism considers abortion a sin; however, the permissibility of abortion and emergency contraception varies between denominations. Conservative Protestantism has condemned all abortion. The majority of mainstream conservative Protestant denominations permit terminations when the mother’s life is threatened. In situations of unwanted pregnancies, the decision is left to the woman. Liberal Protestants favour a woman making her own decision to actualize her moral agency (p.131).
Eastern Orthodox and Protestant have similarities in their beliefs about contraception. Particularly, Eastern Orthodox Church has authorized contraceptive methods provided that it will be used only within marriage. Couples have the right to choose the appropriate contraceptive methods. Permanent methods of contraception may be used only when there are reasons that will risk the health and life of the mother and the baby itself. On the other hand, Conservative Protestants, such as Evangelical and Fundamental Protestants disapproved of contraception due to the literal interpretation of God’s command (written in the bible) which is to be fruitful and multiply. Despite their belief that marriage is for procreation, mainstream Protestants do not prohibit couples to use contraception as long as they are married, and they are allowed to choose the appropriate forms of contraception. Health care providers should identify the Protestant denomination in order to determine the contraception which is appropriate to patients’ belief. With regard to abortion, Conservative Protestants condemn abortion, and majority of mainstream conservative protestants allow it only when the mother’s life is at risk.
Srikanthan & Reid (2008) explained that in Hindu doctrine, the purpose for creating women was for them to have children, specifically sons. However, this religion’s prohibitions against contraception are not specified. They also showed Confucianism and Taoism’s beliefs about contraceptive methods. They said that Confucianism or Taoism does not oppose any contraceptive method. All modern family planning approaches are acceptable. Among traditional ethnic Chinese, natural methods of contraception are more acceptable because they have beliefs regarding harmony with nature which are based on rhythmic change of pin and ying, created by Confucians and Taoists. In this way, withdrawal and rhythm are preferred, but they do not oppose continuous contraception. Abortion and emergency contraception are neither endorsed nor prohibited because Chinese are tolerant and compassionate. Termination of pregnancy is not wrong unless it is completed unnecessarily, and it is never equivalent to murder (p.135).
Religion and culture play a role in controlling women’s ovaries, particularly their sexuality, pregnancy and contraception. Some women follow the teachings of their religion because of faith, but some comply only because they are pressured by their society which is also influenced by the culture itself. For example, certain practices are done because they are already part of the culture which is also influenced by religion. These practices definitely depend on the type of religion. Like the statements above, some religions have similar practices, but some are different. Beliefs about how women should behave are rooted in religious teachings, and these are of course integrated in one’s culture. Some may choose to disobey, but pressures of society force them to do otherwise. In the present time, one’s culture and country affect women’s way of thinking, whether they will be controlled by religion or not. Specifically, with the advancement of science and technology, these religious beliefs about women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception have evolved since women may be enticed by different techniques that make them pregnant or make them control their pregnancy. Likewise, with the media, peer pressure, and environment, some women may be expressive when it comes to their sexuality. The views of different religions on women are indicated below in order to comprehend the history of the religion’s control of women and their ovaries.
Hunt and Jung (2009) stated the religious commitment itself may have an influence on how people perceive themselves sexually, because religious institutions or religious authorities often communicate sexual messages (as cited in Abbott et al., 2016, p. 1064). Browning et al. (2006) added that different faiths vary greatly in messages about sex and sexuality, so sexual self-perceptions differ because of religion that people have or identify with, and religious commitment as well (as cited in Abbott et al., 2016, p. 1064).
Confucianism has its own beliefs about women which can be caused by Confucius’ views of women which are included in the Analects. Women are controlled directly and indirectly, and this can also be caused by China’s patriarchal society. Women’s accomplishments are overlooked, and men are the ones that are mostly recognized. The way of life brought about by Confucianism may control sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception because of its patriarchal society. According to Jiang (2009) China has been a patriarchal society since the past years. How Confucianism functions in China with regard to women’s status also shows how Confucianism functions in patriarchal societies in general (p. 228). The most sexist practices in China’s past were foot-binding and polygamy. There is still sexual discrimination in China until today. Women’s status has improved immensely in contemporary China, but women being inferior to men is still accepted. This is exemplified in many areas of rural China wherein women have to obey men, do all housework, and are never involved in significant decisions. In cities, the wife usually does the housework, so the husband succeeds in his career (p.229). In professional and academic areas, women are deprived of the opportunity to succeed and to be given recognition even if these achievements are equal to male counterparts. At the main stage of various conferences where established people are supposed to sit, usually there are no Chinese women or almost no Chinese women that are invited to sit. The usual reason for not inviting women to sit at the main stage is they believe that they are not as established as the men at the conference. Chinese women are less successful than Chinese men; this shows that Chinese women are oppressed. It is not true that the Chinese men who sit at the main stage of a conference are more established, because the achievements of women are overlooked (p. 229). Some have argued that Chinese women are more powerful than Chinese men, because they can control their husbands and sons. This claim is not sensible because Chinese women cannot control their husbands and sons when it comes to important decisions. Mostly, the influence of Chinese women is on their men’s daily lives, and not on decisions affecting their men’s professional and political lives (p.229). The number of women who have impact on their husbands’ or sons’ issues is small. Likewise, even if some women have impact on their society through their men, this still depends on men whether they will allow it or not (p.230). Women have to show their power through men; therefore, this shows that men and women are not equal in terms of power. Men generally have more power in political and professional areas. However, there are exceptions because there were female rulers whose power was greater than men during their times. Their stories were not about how equal they were to men, but only about their capabilities (p.230). There are only two comments in the Analects which are directly related to women. In one place Confucius says: “Only women and pretty men are hard to be with. If you are close to them, they become disrespectful; if you keep a distance, they become resentful”. This comment has been interpreted as Confucius’s low opinion of women. However, some contemporary commentators have tried various interpretations in order to eliminate the sexism of this passage. One of these is to change female children to women, so that the passage does not seem to undermine all women. However, the problem remains because Confucius specified female children as an object of criticism, but not male children (p. 230). In another place Confucius says:
[The sage king] Shun had five ministers and society was well managed. King Wu said: “I had ten able people as ministers.” Confucius commented, “It is difficult to find talented ones, isn’t it? The times of Tang [Yao’s dynasty] andYu [Shun’s dynasty] were very rich in talent. [Among KingWu’s ministers] there was a woman, so there were only nine people.”
This comment has also been considered to show sexism. Confucius did not consider King Wu’s female minister to be equal to the other nine men. Confucius thought that there were only nine talented people who could work for King Wu, and he also thought that “women were not person in the same sense as men were” (p. 231). “In the Analects, virtues such as ren (humanity, benevolence), yi (righteousness), li (propriety), zhi (wisdom), xiao (filial piety), ti (brotherly love—love and respect for one’s elder brother) are what Confucius discusses most”. Confucius considers men as the norm, and he does not speak equally for men and women. The teachings of Confucius regarding moral cultivation and perfection revolve around how a man should live. When he talks about xiao, he often describes what a son should do how and how important it is to follow a father’s will. “When he talks about the rectification of names, he says: Let the ruler be ruler, the minister be minister, the father be father, and the son be son”. The virtue of ti revolves around how young brothers should treat their older brothers, not about how older sisters should be treated. There is no saying about how sisters and daughter should be treated in the entire Analects (p. 232). Morality for men is the main concern and men are still the norm in the Book of Mencius. Mencius expresses the Five Relationships, such as “love between father and son, duty between ruler and subjects, distinction between husband and wife, precedence of the old over the young, and trust between friends”. The first relationship is obviously about between father and son, and not between son and mother, daughter and father, or daughter and mother. He did not specify how distinction between husband and wife should be made; however, during his time the husband participated in public affairs, whereas the wife takes care of domestic matters (p.233).
Hinduism manifested its control of women when Brahman’s dominance and Manu’s code were established. Specifically, Kaur (2018) elaborated that In Hindu society, women’s freedom and opportunity to develop fully as individuals have been denied. Their contribution to social and economic advancement has been officially prevented. Their development has been controlled by several cultural, social, and historical factors. Bias against women and their backwardness are caused significantly by religious factor. Women have not been worthy of the highest religious goal salvation. For a long time, women were viewed as the root of worldliness, the torch lighting the way to hell, were regarded low in respect and affection, an example of lust and greed, a bad influence on men, and a hindrance in men’s spiritual journey. These negative attitudes toward women are all because of the high value on sanyasa in Hinduism. The religious attitudes were the ones that started the social attitudes despising women (“Role and Status”, para 4). In India, slave was the status of a women when Brahman’s dominance and enforcement of Manu’s code were established. During the Vedic period, women were respected, and religious and social work were completer only with the support of one’s wife. Women had the right to be educated and to be knowledgeable as well. Girls used to attain their education together with boys. There were twenty women who were among the authors of the Vedas. Manusmitri, the Veda of the Brahmanical revival, asserted the perpetual views about women. Manu says, “In childhood, a female must be subject to her father; in youth to her husband; when her lord is dead, to her son: a woman must never be independent”. In Hindu Society, women were governed by rules and regulations set by Manu. Women were inferior to men in all aspects. According to Manu:
“Though destitute of virtue or seeking pleasure (elsewhere), or devoid of good qualities (yet) a husband must be constantly worshipped as a God by a faithful wife.” She was not to grumble or show any disrespect in any manner. On the other hand, the husband was fully empowered to take action against the erring wife. “She who shows disrespect to (a husband) who is addicted to (some evil) passion, is a drunkard, or diseased, shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and the furniture. She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous or wasteful, may at any time be superseded”. The husband was authorised to supersede his wife even on much less serious grounds. “A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year, she whose children (all) die in the tenth, she who bears only daughters in the eleventh, but she who is quarrelsome without delay”. The poor wife was made to bear all the insults and humiliations and degradation with stoic calmness. If she made any protest, she was beaten with a rope or a split bamboo and humiliated. She had no rights. She was no match to her husband.
The only career and goal of a woman was marriage. Child marriage was a rule, and parents were obliged to marry off their daughters before reaching puberty. A widow was prohibited to remarry. Child-widow had to face unbearable acts or actions. A woman who could not produce an offspring was sinful. The birth of a son was the most desirable, so it led to frequent pregnancies and poor health of women. Female child was a sign of misfortune, so female infanticide was practiced. The status of a woman was improved only through the birth of a male child (“Role and Status”, para 5).
In Hinduism, control of women’s ovaries could have started when Brahaman’s dominance and Manu’s code were established, because it is stated that their only career and goal in life was marriage. They always had to please men because committing mistakes could mean punishment. It was also threatening for women who could not bear children because being childless was sinful. They had no rights because they were somewhat owned by men. Even female children were sent off for marriage, and they were also controlled with regard to the gender of their children because they achieved attention from the family and society only when they gave birth to a male child. Women had no right to live and enjoy life because a female child was a misfortune, so a female child had to be killed.
Haiati (2008) showed the fallacy of gender equality in the Baha Faith. The Baha Faith claims that men and women are equal. Their claim of equality is one of the its fundamental tenets. However, there are inconsistencies in their claim of gender equality because Baha’i women themselves are treated with injustice (“The Fallacy”, para 1). Baha’ism has gender laws that are impartial and objective; namely: No Baha’i women are allowed in the faith’s highest governing body, women inherit less than men and are not allowed to inherit property, and bigamy is allowed for men only. “The prohibition of women from serving the sect’s highest governing body, the Universal House of Justice (UHJ)”, is based on the interpretations of Abdul-Baha of Bahaulla’s words and scriptures (“The Fallacy”, para 3). This has caused many women to be upset, so they have formed councils and committees which led to tension between the segregated bodies. There have been many attempts to revoke the discriminative laws. In 1902, Corinne True, a prominent Bahai women’s rights advocate, wrote a letter to Abdul-Baha in order to obtain the approval of the service of female in the governing board in Chicago. The answer to her letter caused her to be dissatisfied (“The Fallacy, para 6). The paragraph below is the answer to her letter and remains the key to today’s practice:
Know thou, O handmaid, that in the sight of Baha, women are accounted the same as men, and God hath created all humankind in His own image, and after His own likeness. That is, men and women alike are the revealers of His names and attributes, and from the spiritual viewpoint there is no difference between them. Whosoever draweth nearer to God, that one is the most favoured, whether man or woman. How many a handmaid, ardent and devoted, hath, within the sheltering shade of Baha, proved superior to the men, and surpassed the famous of the earth (“The Fallacy”, para 7). The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God’s, which will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon (“The Fallacy”, para 8).
“Women inherit less than men and are not allowed to inherit property” also contradicts Baha’ism’s claim of gender equality (“The Fallacy”, para 10). According to the directives of Bahaulla, each inheritance must be divided into 2520 parts and distributed to the heirs. Fathers receive more than mothers, and brothers also receive more than sisters. If the deceased owned personal residence or properties, only male heirs will receive these; therefore, leaving the female heirs dependent on males (“The Fallacy”, para 11). The instructions of Bahaulla regarding the distribution of inheritance are indicated below:
“Inheritances we have divided according to the number al-za’ (seven). Of them we have apportioned to your seed from the book al-ta’ (nine), according to the number al-maqt (540); to husbands or wives from the book al-ha’ (eight), according to the number of al-ta’ and al-fa’ (480); to fathers from the book al-za’ (seven), according to the number of al-ta’ and al-kaf (420); and to mothers from the book al-waw (Six), according to the number of al-rafi’ (360); and to brothers from the book al-ha’ (five), the number of al-shin (300); and to sisters from the book (9) al-dal (four), the number of al-ra’ and al-mim (240); and to teachers from the book al-jim (three), the number of al-qaf and al-fa’ (180). Thus commanded He who gave Good News of Me and who made mention of Me at nights and at daybreaks (al-ashar). We have assigned the residence and personal clothing of the deceased to the male, not female, offspring, nor to the other heirs. He, verily, is the Munificent, the All-Bountiful” (“The Fallacy”, para 12)
“Bigamy is allowed for men only”. According to Bahai’ law, bigamy is legitimate and allowed but for men only. The paragraph below is one of Abdul-Baha’s guidelines:
“You asked about polygamy. According to the text (nass) of the Divine Book the right of having two wives is lawful and legal (ja’iz). This was never (abadan) prohibited, but it is legitimate and allowed (halal wa mubah). You should therefore not be unhappy, but take justice into your consideration so that you may be as just as possible. What has been said was that since justice is very difficult (to achieve), therefore tranquility (calls for) one wife. But in your case, you should not be unhappy” (“The Fallacy”, para 14).
Haiati’s explanations of the fallacies of gender equality in Baha Faith present control of women because these baha i’ laws are in favor of men. Bigamy is allowed for men; therefore, they are tolerated to enjoy their sexuality. Allowing bigamy for men only is an indirect manifestation of controlling women’s ovaries. Women are expected to be faithful, but men are allowed to marry again while they are still married. The Baha i’ laws, such as “Baha’i women are allowed in the faith’s highest governing body”, and “women inherit less than men and are not allowed to inherit property” may not be directly related to control of women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception but these laws prove direct control of women. Women are deprived of freedom and success and they inherit less and are not allowed to inherit property even if they are capable of being independent. This may cause women to always follow men’s commands, because women may be dependent on men in terms of financial needs. This may also cause men to be more successful, and women may always cling to men for security.
Patriarchy is the root of all Jewish denominations, but adherence to gender-role has declined in the modern Jewish sects (“American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 3). Orthodox traditions retain the superiority of male and the deference of women; however, Orthodoxy has slightly shifted into equality (Hurst and Mott 2006, as cited “American Orthodox Jewish Women” in Blackman, 2010, para 3). Halaka, a Jewish law, dictates that women are not allowed to be Jewish leaders but they may study the Jewish holy texts, the Torah and the Talmud (Rich 2002, as cited in “American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 3). The men are the ones who are allowed to both write, read, and interpret the rules of Judaism. Orthodox women rely on their husbands or fathers for the interpretation which could be beneficial or perilous (“American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 3). Tzniut, a set of Jewish laws that dictates modesty between men and women, includes a prohibition on men that they should not listen to a woman singing, except when she is singing to children or for the dead. The reason for this is that men should not be aroused by, or feel pleasure from such sounds (Jachter 2002, as cited in “American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 4). Avoiding a woman when she sings, may lead to a disrespect of a woman in another context. Therefore, the message of this kind of law to women is that they have to be careful not to be overheard. Orthodox women are raised to be cautious with what they say (“American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 4). A wife is prohibited to refuse her husband whenever he wants to have sexual intercourse (Guterman 2008, as cited in “American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 5). The law allows a man to touch his wife as he chooses in all situations, so there is no clear way for an Orthodox woman to think that her husband’s actions are violent (Guterman 2008, as cited in “American Orthodox Jewish Women”, Blackman, 2010, para 5).
Patriarchy as the root of Jewish denominations shows a history of control of women. Women have to be always careful with what they say which can lead to thoughts and emotions being stifled. Not listening to a woman when she is singing can be embarrassing for a woman, besides singing can be a release of one’s emotions. If a man is not allowed to listen to a woman when she is singing, then this may also be a tendency for a man not to listen to her thoughts in other situations. Prohibiting a woman from refusing a husband whenever he wants to have sexual intercourse is an abuse not only of sexuality but of freedom as well. There are times when a woman is not ready for sexual intercourse for reasons that she may have some physical problems. Emotional and mental problems are also factors that hinder a woman from having sexual intercourse. Therefore, this shows that a woman should always be submissive even if she likes to express her rights. Controlling a woman’s sexuality and freedom may also lead to controlling her will to be either pregnant or not to be pregnant.
Christianity’s oppression of women is rooted from the Roman law wherein women were non-citizens and had no legal rights. There was inequality in the system of Roman law; for example, adulterous men were assumed, but adulterous women were punished through death. Such practice is contrary to the words of Paul, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph 5:21). And women did, as we will see, gain some status in Christ, filling key roles within the church” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 1). The oppression continued until the Middle Ages when society accepted that women would marry and have many children. Among elites, parents forced their daughters to accept forced marriage. However, women who wanted to go through a monastic life experienced devotion, scholarship, travel, spiritual fellowship, and equal dialogue with male monastics and church leaders (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 1).
The equality of men and women which is included in Jesus’ message was often not evident in the teachings and practice of the church. Dr. Sarah Summer examined and cited the church’s spotty treatment on women in Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership (InterVarsity Press 2003, as cited in “Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 3). First, Tertullian, the influential teacher and coiner of the term “Trinity”, wrote “On the Dress of Women” and presented to the audience of women (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 4). “Tertullian likens all women to Eve, calling them the devil’s gateway, the unsealer of that forbidden tree, and she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack”. Tertullian emphasized that man, a God’s image, was condemned to death and that Jesus had to come and die because of all womankind (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 5). Second, Ambrose, a bishop of Milan from 374 to 397 A.D., wrote that “though the man was created outside Paradise, an inferior place, he is found to be superior, while woman, though created in a better place, inside Paradise, is found inferior” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 6). Third, Augustine, a theologian, believed that God created a woman only for procreation. He said, “I cannot think of any reason for woman’s being made as man’s helper, if we dismiss the reason of procreation.” He felt that the companionship between man and woman was not part of God’s plan. He also said, “how much more agreeable it is for two male friends to dwell together than for a man and a woman!” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 7). Summer said, “Traditional Christian thinking is not the same thing as biblical thinking about women” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 8). During Tertullian’s time, Romans had a culture wherein marriage and women were degraded. Plato and Aristotle, who were not Christian thinkers, influenced much of early Christian thought. “Aristotle thought that women were irrational in relation to men and unequal in virtue” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 9). God is unprejudiced; however, the view of men and women is influenced by a long tradition of gender inequality. Summer said, “when we try to set these lenses aside, we begin to see a God who is counter-cultural in this respect. He is not a respecter of persons—He shows no partiality! (Acts 10:34)” (“Is Christianity Oppressive”, Rump, 2008, para 10).
Rump’s presentation of Christianity’s treatment to women shows that oppression of women was influenced by the Roman law and not really by the teachings of Jesus Christ because he is unprejudiced. Oppression of the Roman law due to its inequality is an obvious manifestation of control of women. Although such bias started before, it may still have an influence on the present time because there are still people whose interpretation of the bible is affected by prejudice. The practice, “adulterous men were assumed but adulterous women were punished through death”, is an obvious manifestation of control of women’s ovaries. Women were not allowed to explore their sexuality and can never have unlawful pregnancy but men’s adulterous acts were assumed. Assuming men’s adulterous acts is also a form of tolerating them to be unlawful. Women have to continue to be morally pure or decent but men’s adulterous acts are tolerated, is an obvious example of prejudice. The practice during the middle ages wherein women would marry and have many children is a control of women’s will either to be pregnant or not to be pregnant. They may be prevented to use contraceptive methods because they were expected to have many children. The practice of the elite parents during the middle ages to force their daughters to accept forced marriage, is also an obvious control not only of women’s rights to have a better life outside family life but also a control of women’s ovaries. Tertullian’s view that man, a God’s image was condemned to death and that Jesus had to come and die because of all womankind, is an unfair perception of all women. Ambrose’ view that women though created in a better place, inside paradise, is found inferior, is like confining women in prison because whatever they achieve, they are still regarded as inferior. Aristotle’s view that women are irrational in relation to men and unequal in virtue, is a bias judgment of women’s capabilities.
Rose, Tamir, & Goals (2015) explained that patriarchy is a characteristic of the Druze society wherein it demands absolute loyalty to the values of religion, family and clan (Self-Esteem Among Druze Women, par 4). Women are entitled to equal rights under the Druze law and women are also at the center of society according to Druze religion. However, the status of women in the family contradicts the Druze law and the Druze religion because they are inferior to men and they also experience gender exclusion. The Druze society has defined women’s roles, activities, and relations with men. Patriarchy permeates in a traditional Druze society. In Druze families, men are authorized to decide regarding women and are also responsible for them. The family, social, and cultural norms of the patriarchal Druze prohibit women from sharing their views, beliefs, and exposure to mixed society. Women stay in the house if they want to avoid religious sanctions. They are not allowed to drive and pursue higher education. They are not also allowed to work in public places. They are prohibited from claiming their inheritance rights. The normative structure proves that men and women are not equal (Self-Esteem Among Druze Women, para 11).
Even if women have equal rights according to Druze law and even if they are considered to be the center of society according to Druze religion, women are still controlled by the traditional family that is influenced by a patriarchal society. Women’s roles, activities, and relations with men defined by the society can control their development and will merely confine them within certain limits. Men deciding regarding women, shows that women are prevented from making decisions, expressing their opinions and emotions. Women prohibited from interacting with mixed society also shows control of their freedom to have friends and learn from other people. Women prohibited from driving and pursuing higher education may show that women are simply expected to stay at home. Women prohibited from inheritance rights shows that they have no other choice but to depend on men because men have the authority to decide regarding women and are responsible for them. Although Druze women are freer now, the traditional Druze society could have influenced control of women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception because they cannot decide for themselves, they cannot express their views, and they are totally dependent on men.
There are inconsistencies in the role of women in Japan because of the influences that were integrated at different time periods. These inconsistencies were primarily caused by religion. The integration of Shintoism and Buddhism led to the incongruity of the female identity, changing women’s status in “Japan’s matriarchal antiquity to a state of acquiescent confinement by the dawn of the Meiji Restoration” (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 1). Opinions or ideas regarding Japanese women were directly correlated to the spiritual beliefs. Feminine identities caused by these beliefs show the extreme changes for women. Historian Dr. Joyce Lebra, together with Joy Paulson, gives the main historiography regarding the role of women in Japanese society (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 2). The two original Japanese written records that reveal the first documented Japanese attitude towards women are Kojiki and Nihongi (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 3). The Nihongi, which was previously preserved by oral tradition, explains the birth of Shinto through the story of Amaterasu. Amaterasu is an example of perfection in the Shinto religion which is shown through intelligence, beauty, fertility, and purity. Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, is the main kami of worship. Her feminine qualities are appreciated and cherished (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 4). This mythology of femininity led a to “matriarchal antiquity in Japan”. The mythology surrounding Amaterasu led to the birth of Yamato line and a respectable stance regarding women until the sixth century (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 5). Based on the Chinese records from the first century, women were encouraged and allowed to rule because they were confident that they could bring peace and regulation to the country. It is included in these documents that Pimiko, a female ruler and was described as having mature eyes, ruled Japan in the third century. It is also stated in these documents that the opinion of women, chaste and not given to jealousy, is established. Iyo, Pimiko’s female descendant, was greeted with much support from people when she became queen (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 6). The historical record shows themes that correspond to Shinto mythology during a time when Shinto was the main religion. These documents show women’s sense of order and perfection. Pimiko and Iyo personified Amaterasu. Dr. Lebra confirms, “From the depictions of female deities in the myths and the numerous women rulers…it can be assumed that the status of women was similar to that of men” (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 7). In 552 A.D., positive perception of women caused by the dominant rule of Shinto altered due to the introduction of Buddhism. According to Dr. Lebra and Joy Paulson, “The aspects of Buddhism which define its character had begun to make inroads on society’s attitude towards women.” The form of Buddhism adopted in Japan was enormously ant-feminine. “Japan’s newfound Buddhism had fundamental convictions that women were of evil nature, which eventually led women into a submissive role of in Japanese society” (“Women in Ancient Japan”, para 8).
Diana Paul stated that women are considered as inferior in Early Buddhism. Rita Gross also commented that there is misogyny or hatred of women in early Indian Buddhism; however, it does not mean that the whole of ancient Indian Buddhism was misogynist. “The presentation of women as obstructers of men’s spiritual progress or the notion that a woman’s birth is an inferior one with less opportunity for spiritual progress” are statements in the Buddhist scripture that seem to be a misogyny. The emphasis made by the Buddhists regarding the renunciation of male’s sensual desires to females is more frequent (Wikipedia, para 9). Bernard Faure expressed that misogyny in Buddhism is relentless, but discussions about misogyny in Buddhism are open to multiplicity and contradiction (Wikipedia, para 12). Positions of world power in Buddhist tradition show spiritual achievements of an individual. Nun Heng-Ching Shih explains that women in Buddhism have five obstacles, namely “being incapable of becoming a Brahma King, Sakra, King Mara, Cakravartin or Buddha”. These five obstacles are taken from the statement of Gautama Buddha Bahudhātuka-sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya in the Pali Canon “that it is impossible that a woman should be the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One, the Universal Monarch, “the King of Gods, the King of Death or Brahmaa”. Lotus Sutra abolished the earlier limitations of women on achievement of Buddhahood, and this opened a path of enlightenment for women which is equal to men (Wikipedia, para 13). Although a woman can attain enlightenment taken from the statements of Gautama Buddha, it is evidently expressed in Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female Buddha (Wikipedia, para 14). “The Mahayana sutras maintains that a woman can become enlightened, only not in female form. For example, the Bodhisattvabhūmi, dated to the 4th Century, states that a woman about to attain enlightenment will be reborn in the male form” (Wikipedia, para 15). Some Theravada suttas explain that being a bodhisattva is impossible for a woman. Bodhisattva, as someone on the way to Buddhahood, can be a human, animal, serpent, or a god, but never a woman. If Buddha confirms the aspiration to Buddhahood, it is impossible to be reborn as a woman. “An appropriate aim is for women to aspire to be reborn as male. They can become a male by moral actions and sincere aspiration to maleness. Being born a female is a result of bad karma” (Wikipedia, para 16).
In Buddhism, control of women’s ovaries, particularly their sexuality, pregnancy, and use of contraceptive methods could have started from the beliefs of early Buddhists regarding women. Although sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception are not emphasized in the above paragraph, the view of Early Buddhists of women as inferior may somehow prove that they cannot decide for themselves. Misogyny or hatred of women is an unfair feeling or perception and this will prevent women from being an active member of a society because they are confined within a specific boundary. Women as obstructers of men’s spiritual progress and women’s birth as an inferior one with less opportunity for spiritual progress may show that women are judged as sinful without further knowing their inner motives and actions. Women can become enlightened only when they are not in female form and they will attain enlightenment only when they are reborn in male form are concepts or beliefs that show women are regarded lowly. The belief that Bodhisattva can be attained by a human, animal, serpent, or a god, but never a woman, is an insult of womanhood because it is like saying that an animal or a serpent is more superior than a woman.
Kamguian showed women and religious oppression, particularly the views of Islam regarding women. According to Islam, women belong to men. The paragraphs below are taken from Koran:
Men have authority over women, for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient … and those you fear may be rebellious, admonish them to their couches, and beat them”. (The Koran, Women, verse 38, as cited in Women and Religious Oppression, Kamguian, para 7).
“That a woman counts as only half a man in legal and financial matters is specified with great precision in the Koran”: (Women and Religious Oppression, Kamguian, para 9).
And call into witness two men; or if two be not men, then one man and two women” (Koran, The Cow. Verse 282) and God charges you concerning your children: to the male the like of the portion of two female” (Koran, Women, verse 11, as cited in Women and Religious Oppression, Kamguian, para 10).
Kamguian also explained that Men should control women because evil exists in women’s souls based on the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Women and Religious Oppression, para 11). Islam limits and confines women to their sexual and reproductive roles. In Islam, women are believed to be dangerous because they distract men from their duties and corrupt the community as well. Men have the right to temporary marriage for many times and they also have the right to marry up to four wives. However, “free male-female sexual relations are considered a sin in Islam, Christianity and Judaism” (Women and Religious Oppression, para 13). In Islam, women can be wives and mothers but they do not have authority in society. “They are mere extensions of men”. Islam’s prophet says: “There is no salvation for a man or a nation who allows women to rule over them”. Control of women is done through hijab or veil which sets limits of women’s existence. It is believed that women can possibly cause moral or social danger. “if the physical appearance of a woman can awaken feelings in a man, even though she is not aware of it, this will probably lead him to want her, which may lead to adultery” (Women and Religious Oppression, para 15). A Muslim woman without a hijab is like a naked woman, and an attack to the Islamic morality (Women and Religious Oppression, para 16).
The Islamic belief that women belong to men shows control of women. Women, belonging to men, sets limits to what they can do and may prevent them from functioning well in a society. Men should control women because evil exists in the souls of women is an unfair judgment of women’s morality. Eliminating women’s authority in a society and confining them only within their sexual and reproductive roles is a control of their ovaries, particularly sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception. Women can do a lot in a society aside from their sexual and reproductive roles. Women are dangerous because they distract men from their duties and corrupt the community as well is a low opinion of women because men have their own will and they choose either to be influenced by women or to avoid them. Men have the right to temporary marriage and to marry up to four wives as well shows complete freedom of men’s sexuality and a complete control of women’s sexuality.
Kaur (2018) explained briefly the view of Digambara sect of Jainism on women that they cannot attain moksha and cannot become siddhas as well. God created women but they cannot enter heaven or obtain salvation. They must be reborn as men in order to be free from the cycle of birth and death (“Role and Status of Women”, para 4). Jainism includes women in their sangha which is considered as the religious order of Jain laymen, laywomen, monks, and nuns. Pregnant women, young women, or those who have a small child cannot enter the ranks of nuns because the early svetambara scriptures prevented them from doing so. However, the number of nuns doubled the number of monks in spite of early svetambara’s control (Wikipedia, para 17). The Svetambara’s scriptures, particularly Chhedasutra showed that women were given lesser authority than their male counterparts because things that could compromise the vow of chastity should be avoided (Wikipedia, para 18). “The Digambara sect of Jainism believes that women must be reborn as men in order to achieve liberation. Digambaras maintain that women cannot take higher vows of ascetic renunciation” (Wikipedia, para 19). The Svetambara sect argued that one of the Tirthankaras, Mallinath, was a woman. Today, majority of Svetambara monastics are females (Wikipedia, para 20).
The Digambara sect of Jainism’s belief that women must be reborn as men in order to be released from the cycle of birth and death or to achieve liberation shows control of women because they are forced to believe that becoming women is unworthy. They cannot enter heaven or even attain salvation because they are women is something that degrades the female gender. Entering heaven and obtaining salvation are not measured through the gender alone because the gender itself does not define who a person is. Women cannot take the higher vows of ascetic renunciation is a belief that limits women’s will to live simply. Although the above paragraph does not specify Jainism’s control of women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception, it still shows how women are treated unfairly because they are viewed as inferior than men. Therefore, such view of women’s inferiority makes women vulnerable to control particularly the control of their ovaries.
Taoism “is a gender-neutral religion”. Taoism believes in the concept of Yin Yang which shows that masculine and feminine complete each other, cannot be separated, and are equal (“Taoist Ethics”, 2014, para 18). Female images, like the mother of the universe and the mother of all things are used by the Tao Te Ching when describing the Tao (“Taoist Ethics”, 2014, para 19). Taoism’s belief that women function equally in spiritual life exemplifies women who had priestly roles during the earliest days Taoist religion and the many tales of female deities (“Taoist Ethics”, 2014, para 20). Taoism gives emphasis to feminine characteristic, like softness and yielding, modesty and non-aggression. It also believes that the weak will overcome the strong (“Taoist Ethics”, 2014, para 21).
Based on the above paragraph, Taoism is a gender-neutral religion, believes in the concept of Yin and Yan, promotes female images, believes in the equality of women in terms of spiritual life, gives emphasis on feminine characteristics. However, Taoism’s control of women’s ovaries particularly sexuality is evident in the paragraph about Taoist sexual practices. Taoists favored men’s sexual pleasure rather than women’s. The focus of sex was almost always about pleasing men, and women were like a tool so that men could have satisfaction (Taoist Sexual Practices, para 1). Women were inferior with regard to sexual practice. Sex was discussed based on men’s perspective. Men also needed to please women sexually, but the latter were considered merely an object. Men were encouraged to have sexual intercourse not only to one woman but were urged to do it only with beautiful and childless women (Taoist Sexual Practices, para 11). Even if Taoism shows fairness in almost all aspects, men’s superiority and women’s inferiority are still evident.
According to Jayaram, there is no discrimination between men and women in Zoroastrian religion and both genders are treated equally in the religious texts (“Gender Equality”, para 1). In the code of conduct for women, they should be watched regularly because they are prone to temptations of evil (“Gender Equality”, para 10). Watching women regularly due to the assumption that they are apt to temptations of evil may suggest mistrust of women but it does not suggest control of Zoroastrian women’s ovaries.
The paragraphs above have led the author to assume that patriarchy is mostly the root of control of women’s ovaries, particularly women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and contraception. Women are also controlled even during their menstruation despite the fact that it is a natural and biological occurrence. Psychology Wiki explained that, “restrictions on menstruating women have been interpreted by some as evidence of male sexual dominance” (Culture and Menstruation, para 2). Holkar (2017) also explained that “As Chawla’s paper demonstrates, such dominant patriarchal notions regarding women’s bodies have religious origins. A large majority of women consider their bodies as impure/unclean during the time of menstruation” (“How The Taboo Around Menstruation”, para 5). Holkar (2017) added that “menstrual cycle was seen as a boon for reproduction. Even when people celebrated it, they had a reductionist view that a woman’s ultimate goal in life is reproduction” (“How The Taboo Around Menstruation”, para 4). In spite of the issues regarding patriarchy, there are still cultures that are relaxed and friendly when it comes to their perceptions of menstruating women. However, the taboos on menstruation will be shown first in order to present the transition of people’s beliefs. Thakur et al. (2014) discussed the meaning of menstruation in their study, entitled, “Knowledge, Practices, and Restrictions Related to Menstruation among Young Women from Low Socioeconomic Community in Mumbai, India”. They stated that:
Menstruation is a physiological process, which is associated with the ability to reproduce. The name “menstruation” comes from the Latin “menses” meaning moon, with reference to the lunar month and lasting also approximately 28 days long. Its onset profoundly changes a young woman’s life (“Knowledge, Practices, and Restrictions”, para 1).
Thakur et al. (2014) also stated that there are different perceptions of menstruation throughout the world. Even if there is some openness with regard to menstruation nowadays, different populations such as countries, cultures, religions, and ethic groups still differ when it comes to attitude towards it. Women and girls from many low-income countries have restrictions in mobility and behavior when they are menstruating due to the belief that they are impure. Menstruation is still related to cultural taboos and feelings of shame and uncleanliness in many parts of the world. Menstruation is kept secret between the mother and daughter in many families until today (“Knowledge, Practices, and Restrictions”, para 2). In India, menstruation is a natural event, a gift from God, and gives womanhood. Here, women’s views of menstruation are influenced by cultures and religions. Some of the many taboos are “A menstruating girl cannot go to temple, cannot cook, cannot attend weddings”. The limited knowledge and misconceptions of menstruation in India usually result to fear, anxiety, and undesirable practices. Socio economic conditions influence the knowledge and practices related to menstruation (“Knowledge, Practices, and Restrictions”, para 3). The paragraph below is the abstract of the study conducted by Thakur et al. (2014) entitled, “Knowledge, Practices, and Restrictions Related to Menstruation among Young Women from Low Socioeconomic Community in Mumbai, India”:
The main objective was to assess knowledge, practices, and restrictions faced by young women regarding their menstrual hygiene. The views of adult women having young daughters were also included and both views were compared. In addition, the factors influencing the menstrual hygiene practices were also studied. The study was carried out during 2008 in Mumbai, India. The mixed methods approach was followed for the data collection. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect the data. For quantitative survey, totally 192 respondents (96 adult and 96 younger women) were selected. While young women were asked about questions related to their menstruation, adult women were asked questions to find out how much they know about menstrual history of their daughters. The qualitative data helped to supplement the findings from the quantitative survey and to study the factors affecting menstrual practices in young women. The mean age at menarche reported was 13.4 years and 30–40% of young girls did not receive any information about menstruation before menarche. It is thus seen that very few young girls between the age group 15 and 24 years did receive any information before the onset of menstruation. Among those who received some information, it was not adequate enough. The source of information was also not authentic. Both young and adult women agreed on this. Due to the inadequate knowledge, there were certain unhygienic practices followed by the young girls resulting in poor menstrual hygiene. It also leads to many unnecessary restrictions on young girls and they faced many health problems and complaints, which were either ignored or managed inappropriately. The role of health sector was almost negligible from giving information to the management of health problems of these young girls. This paper reemphasizes the important, urgent, and neglected need of providing correct knowledge to the community including adolescent girls.
Holkar (2017) showed in the article, entitled “How The Taboo Around Menstruation Is Rooted In Religion And Culture”, the survey conducted in 2011:
The silence and shame around the menstrual cycle has caused severe problems for girls. In a survey conducted in 2011, it was revealed that in north India, over 30% of the girls interviewed dropped out of school after they start menstruating. Reproductive tract infections (RTI) were 70% more common among women who were unable to maintain hygiene during their menstrual cycle. This kind of cultural neglect of menstrual hygiene is reflected in policies as well because a larger number of adolescent girls (between 12-18 years of age) miss five days of school due to lack of toilets for girls (“How The Taboo Around Menstruation”, para 8).
Holkar (2017) also presented Dr. Rani Bang’s ideas in the book “Putting Women First: Women And Health In Rural Community” which was authored by Dr. Bang herself:
Women in rural communities have very little knowledge about menstrual health. Cultural perceptions such as colour of the menstrual blood govern their perception of what is normal and abnormal. They resist using sanitary napkin because it is difficult to dispose them off. They fear it might fall into the hands of someone who can use Jadu tona (black magic) against them. Therefore, education and counselling is a major requirement regarding menstruation, especially in rural areas (“How The Taboo Around Menstruation”, para 9).
Trent (2017), in her article – “Menstruation Around The World: A Cultural Perspective”, said that menstruating women in areas in Western Nepal are required to sleep in menstrual huts because menstruation itself is seen as unclean. According to National Public Radio (NPR), villagers have fears about menstruating women, such as contaminating their homes and infuriating the Hindu gods if these menstruating women stay with their families. Menstruating women are obliged to stay in menstrual huts because Western Nepal natives believe that menstruation leads to sickness in family members and livestock. The ritual still persists even if the tradition of menstrual huts was outlawed in 2005 (“Menstruation Around the World”, para 2). According to Huffington Post, menstruating girls in some parts of India are informed that “their period can pollute food”, so “women and girls are not permitted to cook and touch pickled vegetables (“Menstruation Around The World”, para 3). According to UNICEF, Menstruating girls in Bolivia are too embarrassed that their schoolmates will find their sanitary pads in bathroom stalls; so these menstruating girls often carry their used sanitary pads and wait until they get home to throw them. There is also a traditional belief that menstrual blood causes cancer if mixed with other trash. UNICEF is encouraging period education in Bolivia in order to change the misconceptions about menstruation (“Menstruation Around The World”, para 4).
Jensen III (2015) discussed the beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism regarding menstruation in his article, entitled “Here’s What The World’s Major Religions Say About Your Period”. Judaism has the harshest view of menstruation among all religions. A woman is considered “niddah” or impure because of menstrual cycle for approximately two weeks out of every month. “The niddah phase begins at the first drop of menstrual blood and continues for a full week after menstruation is over”. She undergoes “mikveh” which is an elaborate ritual bath at the end of the week. Then, she approaches the temple hoping that the rabbi accepts her as clean again with a sacrifice in hand, usually a pair of doves (“Here’s What The Major Religions”, para 3). The fifteenth chapter of Leviticus states that:
Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her during that time will be unclean until evening. Anything on which the woman lies or sits during the time of her period will be unclean…If a man has sexual intercourse with her and her blood touches him, her menstrual impurity will be transmitted to him. He will remain unclean for seven days, and any bed on which he lies will be unclean…When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle (Here’s What the Major Religions”, para 4).
Christianity, along with Buddhism, is the least harsh with regard to the view of menstruation. The beliefs regarding menstruation by some sects originated in Leviticus, an Old Testament; for example: a simple monthly period is “impure”. However, it is uncommon that a woman is isolated from the community as if she were a leper. “Menstruating women are not permitted to receive the holy communion” is a belief which is found among the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church force menstruating women to live in menstrual huts (“Here’s What the Major Religions”, para 6). Islam has its beliefs regarding menstruation; According to Quran 2:222:
They ask you about menstruation. Say, ‘It is an impurity, so keep away from women during it and do not approach them until they are cleansed; when they are cleansed you may approach them as God has ordained….’ (“Here’s What The Major Religions”, para 7).
Islam’s belief is less severe than Judaic niddah. A menstruating woman is unclean; however, the only restrictions are she cannot have sex, touch a Quran, and enter a mosque for a week. She must have a ritual bath before being considered clean again just like in Judaism (“Here’s What The Major Religions”, para 8). Buddhism teaches that a menstruating woman loses Qi which is considered as a bit of her life force. Ghosts eat blood; so women are more susceptible to spiritual impurities because they are surrounded by ghosts that eat blood (“Here’s What The Major Religions, para 10). However, most of Buddhism’s prohibitions against menstruation, such as not permitting menstruating women to enter temples, are traces of Hinduism’s customs. Hinduism believes that menstruation is a sign of physical and spiritual impurity. A menstruating woman is not allowed to enter her own kitchen and Hindu temples as well. She cannot sleep in the daytime, bathe, have sexual intercourse, touch other humans, and speak loudly. She is expected to live in a menstrual hut. However, just like other religions, she is considered pure once menstruation is over. Purification process of ritual bathing is not necessary (“Here’s What The Major Religion”, para 13).
Aru Bhartiya wrote a paper, entitled “Menstruation, Religion and Society”. She examines the menstruation practices of major religions. Women are kept from positions of authority in Christianity due to the history of menstrual taboo. Just like Judaism’s belief, Many Catholics adhere to the idea that a menstruating woman should not have sexual intercourse just like in Judaism (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 4). Menstruation is viewed as unclean in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. It is also a belief of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church that menstruating women cannot participate in sacraments (especially in communion) and they cannot also touch holy items like Bible or religious icons (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 5). This is not a universal practice in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, but it has not been entirely eliminated. Russian Orthodox Christians practice that women have to live in secluded huts during menstruation. During their period, they cannot attend church services, cannot have contact with men, and cannot touch raw or fresh food. Likewise, it is believed that the gaze of a menstruating woman has a negative effect on the weather (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 6). In Islam, a woman who has her period cannot touch the Quran, enter the mosque, say the ritual prayer, and have sexual intercourse with her husband for seven full days. She is also not required to do rituals such as daily prayers and fasting (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 9). In Buddhism, it is believed that menstruating women lose Qi which is a life force or spiritual energy. It is a Buddhist belief that ghosts eat blood; so menstruating women are a threat to themselves and others because they attract ghosts. The Buddha Dharma Association says that “while fermenting rice, menstruating women are not allowed near the area or the rice will be spoilt” (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 14).
In Renee Pinkston’s article, “Menstrual Taboos – Anthropology of Gender”, states that there are many menstrual taboos in Christianity, but they are not labeled as taboos. The Catholic denomination has one of the most well-known menstrual taboo within Christianity. Women are not allowed to have a high standing within the church. Women are not included in the sanctuaries in the dioceses in the United States. Many sisters in the church think that this is due to the belief that women are dirty and polluting because of their menstrual cycle. “In fact, many older documents on Christianity as well as the Bible itself states that women are seen as unclean, especially during their menstruation period” (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 8).
Renee Pinkston also writes about menstruation restrictions in China. His ideas as indicated below:
The Chinese today see all body refuse as being dirty because it was rejected by the body and ejected from the body by natural and normal systems. Of all the dirty bodily refuse, menstrual blood is the worse because it is dirty and it is also polluting and the blood that flows out is associated with danger, pain, and death, which in some cases would be also seen as the unborn fetus. The Chinese also believe that during her menstrual period, a woman is very unbalanced, or liminal. Among the Chinese, the menstrual taboos are rather general. Menstruating women are not to wash their clothes and their husband’s clothes together; they are not allowed to sit on a chair that a man will occupy. Menstruating women are not allowed to worship gods in public ceremonies, public temples or even ancestral halls; however, they can worship the gods in private. Along the lines of public, they are also not allowed to attend weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations, or open houses. Sexual intercourse during menstruation is also taboo for the Chinese. It is believed that during sexual intercourse the man absorbs part of the woman essences and the woman does the opposite. If sexual intercourse occurs during menstruation then the man will absorb the polluting essences of the woman and he will become polluted which results in penis sores and a condition called crushing red which results in other diseases and even death (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 19).
Guterman and others, in their article entitled “Menstrual Taboos Among Major Religions” explain that it is believed in Muslim cultures that menstruating women are impure and they are to be avoided by men. These laws are included in the Quran (2:222) which reads:
They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say it is an illness so let women alone at such times and go not into them til they are cleansed. And when they have purified themselves, then go unto them as Allah hath enjoined upon you (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 10).
Guterman and others, in their article – Menstrual Taboos Among Major Religions, also state that in Jewish law, literal physical contact between males and menstruating females is forbidden and for a week thereafter. “Physical contact includes passing objects between each other, sharing a bed, sitting together on the same cushion of a couch, eating directly from the wife’s leftovers, smelling her perfume, gazing upon her clothing, or listening to her sing”. An Orthodox Jewish wife is supposed to undergo the Mikvav, the ritual bath. “This entire period of time, from the beginning of the “bleeding days”, until the end of the 7 clean days, when the woman immerses herself in the ritual bath, is called the Niddah (ritually unclean) period” (as cited in Sridhar, 2016 para 13).
Robert Briffault wrote a book, entitled “A Study of the Origins of Sentiments and Institutions”, in order to delve into the practices of various cultures and societies across the world regarding menstruation. According to him, among the Eskimos, there are huts especially for the use of menstruating women and they also have prescribed dietary regulations. There are cups and utensils that are exclusively for the use of menstruating women. The Tlingit, an indigenous group of people in Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, also followed similar isolation for menstruating women. The Tlingit women were not allowed to lie down, they had to sleep propped up with logs. They were not also allowed to chew their own foods because masticated foods were supplied to them. Pima Indian women, who are Native Americans and live now in central and southern Arizona, retire into the bushes for several days during menstruation. “Among the Canadian tribes, menstruating women are not even allowed to travel the same path as men” (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 15). There are menstrual huts for women among the tribes of Uaupe. Ticunas control menstruating girls through seclusion, flagellation, and plucking of hairs. Araucanians of Chile prevent menstruating women from visiting sick people and attending public amusements (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 17). Indigenous tribes of Siberian region had restrictions for menstruating women. Kamchatka, Yukaghir, Koryak, Somayeds, etc. segregated women during their menstruation. A Yukaghir woman was not allowed to touch fishing hunting tools during her period. Somayed women isolated into the inner chambers of the yurta had to fumigate with reindeer hair before they could be considered pure after menstruation. Different tribes of Africa, such as Bushmen, Bakongo, Baila, Akikuyu etc. had restrictions for menstruating women. Ancient Arabia also segregated women into special huts during their menstruation. It was a belief of Ancient Persia that the glance of menstruating women was polluting. Menstruating women in Ancient Persian were placed in dashtanistan, an isolated portion of the house, and stayed there until twenty-four hours after the cessation of the period. Fire could not be kindled in the house throughout that period, and they had to stay fifteen paces away from fire or any water. No wood should be seen from the place and the floor should be covered with dust. A menstruating woman’s food had to be cooked separately. The attendant may approach her but not closer than three paces when giving the food to her. However, a menstruating woman had to wrap her hand with a cloth when receiving her food. All the clothes that she had worn during her period must be destroyed, and she must be washed with bull’s urine in order to purify her (as cited in Sridhar, 2016, para 18).
Shannon McKeogh (2016) emphasized menstruating women “Spending Some Time in a Menstruation Hut in an article, entitled “How Menstruating Women are Treated Around the World”. It is stated that Menstruation Hut was, a shelter where menstruating women stayed because of the belief that they had to be separated from their families, was used to be practiced in Rastafarian societies, and by Balinese and by Hindus in South India (“How Menstruating Women”, para 5). In this article, it is also stated that:
Alfon Adadikam, chairperson of West Papuan Community in Victoria, says the menstruation hut is still used in Papua by a certain tribe for a girl’s first menstruation. The girl will sleep in the hut especially made for her and she must stay awake at night as long as she still bleeding to avoid bad dream that they believe will eventuate (“How Menstruating Women”, para 6).
In an article, entitled “Menstruation: Let’s Stop the Myths”, it is discussed that women and girls in communities in India are prohibited to enter the kitchen or cook food for fear that food will rot (“Menstruation”, para 3). There are many taboos and myths about menstruation in Burundi (“Menstruation”, para 8). Plan International Rwanda has been conducting sessions in a centre where there are over 4,000 refugees in order to teach young girls about the issue, sexual exploitation, and discuss the myths about menstruation (“Menstruation”, para 9). One girl said that she is scared to inform her mother about menstruation because she may laugh at her. Other say that it is prohibited to take a bath near a utensil at home because drops of blood from the menstruation could kill family members (“Menstruation”, para 10). Many girls revealed that they are advised to avoid men during their period, otherwise “it will be seen in their face”. “Another girl said she was told to place blood on her breast to stop them from falling” (“Menstruation”, para 11).
Psychology Wiki discussed culture and menstruation in Bali and Sumba, Indonesia. In Bali, a woman who had started her cycle was forced to walk with her aunt on a large pile of garbage. A menstruating woman was sprinkled with holy water while on top of the garbage. A wife does not have a happy life because once a month during menstruation, it a belief in Bali that she belongs on the top of the filth due to this condition. A menstruating woman in Bali is not allowed to enter the kitchen to do her duties and she is not also allowed to have sexual intercourse with her husband. She has to separate from her family when sleeping, and she also has to keep and separate the clothes for menstruation from the clothes that she wears to the temple. “One of the most important taboos is that a woman is absolutely not allowed to attend temple while menstruating” (Culture and Menstruation, para 18). In Sumba, Indonesia, women do not tell men when they have menstruation; so men think that they are deceitful because of this. Women believe that they are able to exercise control of the men because of their secrecy (Culture and Menstruation, para 19.). In Sumba, it is believed that sexually transmitted diseases are acquired when men have sexual intercourse with women while they are menstruating. Keeping women’s cycles as a secret is believed to be the reason why women are called deceitful, and women are expected to avoid sexual intercourse because of the belief regarding sexually transmitted diseases. It is a belief in Sumba that Gonorrhea is a disease you get from women. If a man acquires this disease, it is believed that he has to pass this to a woman in order to rid himself of painful sores because he thinks that a woman can absorb infection and purify herself during a cycle (Culture and Menstruation, para 20).
In Donovan’s (2015) article, entitled “Here are Four Cultures That Actually Respect Menstrual Cycles”, showed the cultures that have harsher approach to menstruation. It is stated that:
While NPR showed that some cultures tackle menstruation in a more respectable way than the U.S., there are plenty of other countries and cultures that treat the biological function like it’s cause for shame. In 2011, the New York Times interviewed Fatih Yoye, a woman from a village in Niger who said females are seen as tainted on their cycles. (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 10). “Those several days of the month served as a hiatus,” Saumya Dave wrote in a piece for the Times. “She was not allowed to pray. If her period arrived in the time of fasting, she had to stop fasting and make it up afterwards. Most chores were off limits as well. Fatih could not prepare food or collect water. The other women in the village would help her fetch water from the well. She said that she used cloth rags as protection. They were washed daily and hung inside her hut, away from the other clothes that were allowed to dry outside, to minimize embarrassment.” (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 11). In this same report, Dave noted that menstruation impacts the education of many young women in Africa. If they do not have the resources to take care of their periods, they struggle to concentrate in class. If they have to step out multiple times to change their rags, they are frequently subjected to cruelty from male classmates. They might also skip school during menstruation. (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 12). “Based on what I observed in the villages I visited, there seemed to be a strict link between biology and religion vis a vis menstruation protocol,” Dave wrote. “Muslim women in villages and urban areas seemed to abide by the same constraints during their periods. Raised in a Hindu household, I myself was forbidden to go to the temple during this time… Menstruation may be a taboo topic but that may be the exact same reason it deserves to be written about more.” (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 13).
Last year, a 32-year-old Indian woman named Manju Baluni told BBC that menstruation is taboo in the country and that she’s been ostracized during her own cycle. (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 14). “I’m not allowed into the kitchen, I can’t enter the temple, I can’t sit with others,” she said (“Here Are Four Cultures”, para 15).
Aside from the taboos about menstruation which are emphasized in the paragraphs above, there are cultures that are relaxed and friendly in dealing with menstruating women. Brink (2015) made an article, entitled “Some Cultures Treat Menstruation With Respect”. Brink included in her article the findings of Alma Gottlieb regarding the menstruation practices of Yurok, the Rungus women from Borneo, Ulithi women of the South Pacific, Ghana (West Africa), and Beng women of Ivory Coast. Specifically, Gottlieb found out that the aristocratic women of the Yurok, a tribe of the northwest coast of the United States, viewed their menstruation as a time for purifying themselves. Many women who lived near one another performed rituals during their cycle and considered this as their most heightened spiritual experience (“Some Cultures”, para 6). The Rungus women from Borneo do not say that menstruation is either pure or polluting, because they think that “It’s just a bodily fluid that needs to be evacuated” (“Some Cultures”, para 7). Huts for menstruating women in Ulithi, South Pacific have a party atmosphere because breastfeeding women join menstruating women, along with their children (“Some Cultures”, para 8). Young girls in some parts of Ghana, West Africa are like a queen when they begin menstruating, because they sit under beautiful ceremonial umbrellas and their families would give them gifts and show them respect and honor (“Some Cultures”, para 9). Beng women of Ivory Coast have positive male-imposed restrictions. “An older man, a religious leader in the local religion, told Gottlieb that menstruation is like the flower of a tree. You need the flower before the tree can fruit” (“Some Cultures”, para 10).
Trent (2017) emphasized the point of Women’s Health in her article, entitled “Menstruation Around the World: A Cultural Perspective”. Particularly, Cree women are honored with the rite of passage called a Berry Fast when they begin their period. Generations of female family members pray for the young women’s future, bringing them soup and water while they fast from solid foods. Family members encourage the young women to think about their goals in life and to be creative as well. The young women are treated to a large feast when the event is over (“Menstruation Around The World”, para 6).
Trent stated that menstruation is a normal part of life. American culture used to keep the woman’s cycle a secret; however, there are various available resources for the women of today, such as mainstream period commercials, magazine advertisements, billboard signs, and social media promotions (“Menstruation Around The World”, para 7). The Independent reports that:
a pair of New Jersey teens recently launched Girls Helping Girls. Period, a community drive to collect feminine hygiene products for those in need. The selfie initiative #JustATampon– which originated in England and quickly went viral – has helped raise awareness and donations for gender inequality globally (“Menstruation Around The World”, para 8).
Momigliano (2017) wrote an article, entitled “Italy Set to Offer Menstrual leave for Female Workers”. Italy might soon be the first western county to offer three days paid menstrual leave each month to working women who experience painful periods (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 2). Some local media outlets recognized the proposed law as a positive way to help working women who experience painful menstruation. Marie Claire, the Italian edition of women’s magazine, called it as “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability” (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 3). Lorenza Pleuteri wrote in Donna Moderna, a women’s magazine, that “employers could become even more oriented to hire men rather than women” if women were granted extra days of paid leave. (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 4). Daniela Piazzalunga, an economist at research institute FBK-IRVAPP, said in an email that:
Women are already taking days off because of menstrual pains, but the new law would allow them to do so without using sick leaves or other permits. However, on the other hand I wouldn’t exclude that [if the law is approved] this would lead to negative repercussions: The demand for female employees among companies might decrease, or women could be further penalised both in terms of salary and career advancement.” (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 9).
Miriam Goi, a feminist writer at Vice Italy, stated that “there’s also the danger that, rather than breaking down taboos about menstruation, the debate surrounding the proposed menstrual leave will end up reinforcing stereotypes about women being more emotional during their periods” (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 10). “Similar laws already exist in parts of China, Japan and South Korea. A few private companies, including Nike, have also introduced menstrual leaves for their staff” (“Italy Set to Offer”, para 12).
McKeogh (2016) wrote an article, entitled “How Menstruating Women are Treated Around the World”. It is stated that some African and Indonesian cultures consider the first menstruation as a time to feast, have blessings, and wear a party dress (“How Menstruating Women”, para 7). Merthi Poedijono, President of Balinese Organization Sekarwari, informs SBS that the Balinese have “Menik Kelih” which is a ceremony when the girl starts her period. It is stated that:
The ceremony is to give offering to God, the purpose is to ask God to bless and lead her into a good life. This can be done at the girl’s house or other place but not at Pura (place of worship) as menstruating women are forbidden to enter Pura (“How Menstruating Women” para 8).
“Anti Suroso, employee at the GN-OTA foundation in Jakarta says that in Central Java, a ceremony called, Tarapan is practiced”. It is stated that:
In Yogyakarta palace the girl will be dressed with a special palace code of dress. The mother will make red and white rice porridge, herbs, spices and incense to prevent bad luck. Words of wisdom are given by the mother and other wise women. No men are allowed to participate including her father (as cited in Mckeogh, 2016, para 9).
Juliana Nkrumah, Founder of the African Women Australia Inc. says “in Ghana, the Akan community recognize first menstruation as a time for special feasting and mentoring from older women” (as cited in Mckeogh, 2016, para 11). She says:
When I got my period, older girls told us what to do and supplied pads. You were given a special meal of yam, boiled and mashed, until it became fluffy, combined with onion, chilli, palm oil and a hard-boiled egg. This was presented by the Mum to her menstruating daughter, and she was taught about pregnancy and boys (as cited in Mckeogh, 2016, para 12).
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