The unhappy marriage of religion and politics: problems and pitfalls for gender equality

Shahra Razavi, Anne Jenichen

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


This article explores how religion as a political force shapes and deflects the struggle for gender equality in contexts marked by different histories of nation building and challenges of ethnic diversity, different state–society relations (from the more authoritarian to the more democratic), and different relations between state power and religion (especially in the domain of marriage, family and personal laws). It shows how ‘private’ issues, related to the family, sexuality and reproduction, have become sites of intense public contestation between conservative religious actors wishing to regulate them based on some transcendent moral principle, and feminist and other human rights advocates basing their claims on pluralist and time- and context-specific solutions. Not only are claims of ‘divine truth’ justifying discriminatory practices against women hard to challenge, but the struggle for gender equality is further complicated by the manner in which it is closely tied up with, and inseparable from, struggles for social and economic justice, ethnic/racial recognition, and national self-determination vis-à-vis imperial/global domination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-850
Number of pages18
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number6
Early online date15 Sept 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • religion
  • politics
  • gender equality


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