Sezgin on Women’s Rights Under Religious Law

Yuksel Sezgin (Harvard Divinity School) has posted Women’s Rights in the Triangle of State, Law, and Religion: A Comparison of Egypt and India. The abstract follows.

The main premise of this Essay is that personal status laws, whether based on Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu tradition, are men-made (implying that no females were involved in this process), socio-political constructions that have come invariably to discriminate against women and deny them equal rights in familial relations. However, women do not silently acquiesce in violation of their rights and liberties by male-dominated religious norms and institutions. On the contrary, women-led hermeneutic communities all over the world are spearheading a silent but steady revolution that redefines women’s role as rights-bearing and equal individuals in familial and public space. In doing so, women’s groups contest the scriptural monopoly of state-sanctioned religious institutions, reinterpret religious laws, and reinvent the tradition by vernacularizing international human rights and womens’ discourses. Against this background, Part I of this Essay demonstrates the implications of personal status laws on the rights and freedoms of women by looking at the Egyptian and Indian personal status systems. Part II of this Essay traces women-led reform movements emerging in the last two decades in these two countries and demonstrates how Egyptian and Indian women have claimed the rights and freedoms that current systems have denied them by forming reinterpretive hermeneutic communities.

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