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Human Rights and Religious Leaders Call on Religious Leadership to Stand for Equal Rights for Girls and Women

April 6, 2011
CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, 1-404-420-5124

Atlanta...A group of human rights defenders and religious leaders representing more than 20 countries gathered at The Carter Center today called on faith leaders to reassess the role religions play in continuing discrimination against women worldwide.

"The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam, and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the conference. "This gives men a right to abuse women, whether it's the husband beating his wife or depriving a woman of her basic rights."

The group met April 5-6 to discuss the key challenges that women's rights activists face and effective ways to bridge the gaps between religious, traditional, and formal state institutions to advance the protection of these rights.

"It's not religions that discriminate, but humans," said Abdullahi An-Naim, Emory Law School professor and expert on Islam and human rights, who attended the conference. "It is the people who interpret the Holy Scriptures."

The group called for religious leaders to convene a world interfaith conference on the issue of gender justice and develop partnerships across secular and faith-based organizations.

Next steps for the group include:

  • Informing heads of state and religious leaders of the conference findings.
  • Creating an interreligious document on faith and human rights to be disseminated widely to radio stations, newspapers, and local communities.
  • Promoting the creation of a fund to support civil society organizations' participation in various U.N. human rights bodies to press their governments on the world stage to address human rights violations.
  • Supporting efforts to educate religious leaders and communities about how scriptures support women's rights.

Read the group's full statement (PDF) >

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