In the 21st century, gender equality and feminism are becoming widely introduced around the world in various approaches. Even with understanding gender equality, there is still one area that remains untouched. It is religion. A large variety of religions have been practiced almost everywhere in the world. It is a well-known fact that a lot of civilizations, including Myanmar, tend to revolve around religious beliefs and thus creating traditions and customs that are unknowingly become discriminatory against women and LGBTIQ community.
In this article, we are going to uncover how religions and traditions are actually different andhow religious people should condemn those acts that actually contradict from the real religious sayings (i.e: to be respectful and peaceful towards every human being), and to abolish those sexist practices.
Religious practises and Sexism:
In Myanmar, religions and religious practices play a huge role in Myanmar citizens daily lives, but the sexist traditions that come from religions are becoming a problem to women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
For example, in Myanmar, women are not allowed to go into some higher places of Buddhist pagodas because women are “considered as lower genders”. This sexist rule would be misunderstood as religious rule when in fact, it is derived from nowhere and now is being practiced as “traditions”. Since these regulations have been practiced for decades, it undeliberately becomes as though Buddha has said them even though he specifically preached that all human beings are equal and have the ability to achieve anything.
Men and Women - The Clear Demarcation:
Not only that, the Buddhist nuns and monks are treated differently just because one are women and the other are men. For instance, even though both nuns and monks are “Children of god”, nuns go through a very different lifestyle than monks. Monks are allowed to accept donations such as ready to eat meals while nuns can only accept uncooked rice and have to cook their own meals. The nuns almost never receive the same respect as monks do from men because there are beliefs that men have more “prestige and glory” than women. This also extended to seating nuns behind men during religious ceremonies, which is wrong on many levels since nuns have to follow more Vinaya (disciplines or code of conduct for Buddhist monks and nuns) than people who are not under any monk/nunhood.
In addition, it becomes highly problematic that even nuns face sexual harassments and assaults but it is often undermined as “normal distress that women usually face” with no actions taken. Moreover, transgenders are often being disrespected by religious people that it is a shame and mostly forbidden to convert into monkhood or nunhood. Such discriminations do not directly come from original sayings and are cultural ideas to exert sexism and misogyny over women and LGBT community.
When certain practices are done under the name of religion, it starts to metamorphose as if it was said in the religious books, this could be treating women as inferior or believing that being a member of LGBT community is “bad karma from past lives”, which also lead to prejudice against women and LGBT community. When cultures are mixed with religion, it becomes more difficult to get rid of. Obviously, not all cultures and traditions are meant to be kept. For example, Female Genital Mutilations (FGM) has now been anounced as the violation of human rights especially to young girls. FGM have been done in many Islamic countries as “religious support” but there are no religious scripts in Qu’ran encouraging that practices. Even though FGM is being forced to fulfill the cultural ideas of modesty and femininity. It is still mistaken as religious practices.
Then why do we keep practicing these sexist traditions when we know it is not religion? The answer would be fear that comes from years of being brainwashed under patriarchal society and the general public’s inability to change for the better. Not t mention that most religious leaders are men who are not willing to use their influence to make a change. However, such sexist and misogynistic traditions must need to be changed for the sake of our society and to learn to respecthuman rights.
To sum up, traditions and culture are meant to be kept but not always. Traditions change,and customs are improved to fit better to our developing civilizations. If we cannot change those dangerous traditions that are disguised under the name religion, it will lead to harming the images of peaceful religions in the future. We also have to acknowledge the fact that it is problematic to still keep those discriminations alive, and each and one of us should take part in building a safe space where everyone can exercise their religious beliefs freely regardless of their genders.