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Gender inequality in the Caribbean: A sad story

REBECCA THEODORE
rebethd@aol.com

Published: Jun 19, 2013

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Christianity, it has been argued, “changed the world, established the roots of civilization and advanced the general well -being of humanity.” Astoundingly enough, it now seems that the Christian thought that evolved from the fiery preaching of St. Paul the apostle to the Ephesians is now engulfing the Caribbean in a tide of darkness and destruction. Emboldened by a religious intellectualism fiddled with emotionalism, the dilemma of gender inequality lies fortified amidst a wreckage that yearns for a perfect comprehension in the Caribbean.

The lurid and pithy utterances and the revelation contained in Ephesians 5: 22-23 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 are now distinguished in a surge of gender inequality that betrays the progress that women have made and continue to make in the Caribbean.

If statistics concerning gender inequality in the Caribbean are correct, then we at once see the economic, social, and political status of women being rapidly eroded in a patriarchal society where religion worships the epitome of a male dominated supremacy.

As ministers of religion take to the pulpits and preach the boldness and grandeur of the scriptures, it seems more men are taken in with the soaring flight of their own imaginations as a reason to beat their wives because they are the head of the household. Others feel compelled to restrain them to silence in church ministry and political participation.

Statistics report that “women in the Caribbean still lack promotional rights, free from job discrimination as social and legal institutions do not pledge equality in employment and earning and social and political participation.” Caribbean women not only continue to cluster at the lower sectors of society in terms of employment, wages, and political representation, making them vulnerable to poverty and gender-based violence and harassment, but to conflicting ideology of power and religious oppression as well.

The impact of gender inequality on Caribbean shores should now awaken the conscience of governments to take measures to ensure that all its citizens are protected. It is time that Caribbean governments focus on the eradication of direct and indirect forms of discrimination against women through legislative reforms and the enactment of gender sensitive social, political and religious policies.

Although one might be tempted to infer that Christian morals should be upheld in every aspect of our daily lives, it must also be seen that in a society where women’s rights are vaporized by religion, then the narrative becomes sexist in origin and chaos quickly follows.

It is assumed that since St. Augustine and his confessions, the Christian church continues to misread Paul and religious interpreters are losing sight of the controversy regarding the relationship between men and women. Former professor at Harvard University Divinity School Krister Stendahl confirms that “Paul’s biblical exegesis, historical interpretation and sociological analysis, is only demonstrative of an “introspective conscience” hence the real dynamic in Paul’s polemic, i.e., the relationship between men and women should not be one that encourages or contributes to abuse of women or gender inequality.”

If God is the liberator of all humanity, then shouldn’t the aim of the law as understood in Christianity construct a device capable of inclusion of all sexes? Why then should St. Paul declare it a shame for women to speak in public or constrain them to silence, thus reducing them to inequality and slaves of the law?

Seeking to alienate women from the duties and privileges of church leadership or employment equity is antiquated in nature especially in a glowing 21st century where much emphasis is placed on gender egalitarianism and non-discrimination.

History has proven time and time again, that institutions of faith destroy equality. It must also be remembered that it was the skepticism of organized religion that led to the fundamentalist movement in the United States and the manipulation of individual faith as a means to a political end, because people wanted the freedom to learn from the bible, and interpret it themselves through their community church.

And while there is salvation on the Damascus road, the need for structural reform, redefinition of power, accelerating human rights for women to provide a firm foundation for social, religious and economic development and security should now be an urgent plea in many Caribbean societies.

 

• Rebecca Theodore is an op-ed columnist based in Atlanta, GA. She writes on national security and political issues. Follow her on twitter @rebethd or email her at rebethd@aol.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.

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