Yuksel Sezgin (CUNY John Jay) has posted The Role of Alternative Legalities in Bringing About Socio-Legal Change in Religious Systems. The abstract follows.
Do women have equal rights under Islamic, Jewish or Hindu laws? As far as the actual practice is concerned, the answer is not an affirmative one, as most religious traditions have historically discriminated against women particularly in familial relations. Moreover, in most religious traditions human agency is usually prohibited from interfering with ‘divine’ law that is assumed to represent the ‘God’s’ will and commands. Then, how can gender equality or uplifting of women be achieved under religio-legal systems? If ‘sacred’ laws cannot be amended, does it mean that religio-legal systems are constantly stagnated or frozen in time? Are women eternally doomed to suffer under patriarchal and discriminatory religious laws? The answer is simply ‘no’. For instance, Sisters in Islam, a Muslim feminist organization in Malaysia holds the view that it is not Qur’an or Islam that oppresses women but it is the male-centric and repressive legality built around the originally emancipatory message and word of God that came to discriminate against women. In this regard, they argue that what needs to be changed to improve the status of women is not the law or the text itself but the legality built around it. In fact, all over the world women are contesting legality of customary and religious laws and rendering a more egalitarian and emancipatory understanding of the texts and traditions without necessarily contesting their legitimacy, source or originality.