As a leading interfaith organization founded by a woman, Juliet Hollister, the Temple of Understanding has long been interested in women’s full contributions to society as a pathway to peace. Our most recent Hollister award recipient is Ela Gandhi, an internationally recognized peace activist and the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.
In February of 2015, she suggested we focus this work in a call:
Religions Protect and Respect Women
We call for religions to support women’s equality, starting with endorsement and action on the gender principles of the Earth Charter, a collective interfaith document widely vetted around the globe:
- Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
- Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
- Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.
- Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which set standards for the next 15 years, acknowledge women as key agents of action towards building just societies. Education and full civic engagement, including women in governance and in all forms of work, are crucial for women (and men) to reach their full potential. We believe that these are the true seeds of peace.
Our purpose is not to debate systemic wrongs, but to affirm pathways forward. Respectful relationship towards women goes hand in hand with respectful relationship with our earth- the land, air, energy and water that sustain life. The Sustainable Development Goals might more profitably be framed as sustainable community goals, as it is with right relationship with others that we can endure and thrive in the changes ahead. Peace is implicit in sustainability — war is devastating on all levels.
Rape and Domestic Violence
We are conscious of rape as a tool of war, whether in armed conflict or in civic life, and of the roles of both men and women in changing the culture of rape. Domestic violence and other forms of abuse hinder women from reaching their full potential. Religious institutions have a role in saying “NO!” to violence towards women as a major step towards achieving peace and empowering women.
Inclusion and Agency
At the United Nations 2015 Commission on the Status of Women, we heard that women want to be part of the decision-making process at all levels. The resounding rallying call is universal for women: “nothing about us without us.”
We ask religious communities how they currently respect and protect women, how they ask women what forms of respect and protection women want, and how they act towards uprooting social norms of violence. There will be no peace unless we can end violence against women. We suggest that religions consider binding themselves to international human rights law as countries do, and assume those obligations.
International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.
A key international treaty is CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The Temple of Understanding works towards women’s rights at the United Nations through the Women’s Major Group, through participation in UN conferences such as the Commission on the Status of Women, and through the SDG process – Goal 5 calls for gender equality.
Selected Women in TOU programs at the UN
- Nina Simons
- Aleya Fraser
- Trebbe Johnson
- Dr. Pam Rajput
- Marta Benavides
- Dr. Vandana Shiva
Religions Declare for the Rights of Women
Under construction: we welcome additional listings for inclusion.
- Towards a New Discourse on Religion and Gender (February 2015)
- Towards the Eradication of Violence Against Women and Girls (November 2012)