Rape and Religion, What About Women?
by ckenn3 on November 4, 2013 - 7:12pm
The article, “Beyond Christianity: The Status of Women and Rape Myths” by Renae Franiuk and E. Ashley Shain discusses the relationship between religion and rape myths. It was written to review religious writings that support or instigate rape myths in past and present societies. Also, the article investigates the literal and distorted interpretations of each text. This analysis focuses on the most prominent texts used in Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
In context to religion and rape myths in general, it is safe to say that women are much more “under the radar” than men. The article states that the ideal female, her purity and her gender role all contribute to today’s society which condones male violence against women. Also, in many religions and cultures there is a highly common victim-blaming attitude. This is because a woman’s body is thought to belong to a man; therefore, if she has any type of sex outside of her marriage then it is automatically her fault. These sexist attitudes are encouraged within religion because there are many distorted and wrong interpretations of major religious texts when it comes to sex and religion. Regardless of the inferiority of women, religion has always and will always continue to instigate sexist notions.
According to this article in terms of Islam, it is said that countries with looser ties between state and church will have better human rights because religion is not as prominent. For Islam, religion is very prominent. The most important text, the Qur’an, is believed to be the literal word of Allah. Many recognize that the Qur’an discusses equality of women and men but over time men have interpreted the Qur’an in their favor and dismissed the viewpoints of those who are in support of equality for women. Passages such as Qur’an 4:34 which states, “men are appointed guardian over women…virtuous women must be obedient” are the type that allow for misinterpretation. Also in another Islamic phrase “a man’s honor lies between the legs of a woman” suggests ownership. These teachings provide a basis to blame and punish women for rape in Islamic culture.
Hinduism is similar to Islam because women have very low status. The teachings of this religion teach that women are far more inferior to men than we realize. The Brahmana text points out that not only are women inferior but their menstrual cycles and pregnancy makes them impure. Another text, the Ramayana says that the mere sight of an attractive man stimulates sexual desire in women. This belief helps to instigate the myth that women enjoy rape. The purity of women is also much more stressed in Hinduism. It is important for women to be virgins and remain that way until it is with a husband and no one else.
Buddhism is unique in that it is more about self-liberation than rules for genders. The focus of this belief system is releasing ourselves from our own suffering. There are no strict guidelines for marriages and no specific gender roles. The only thing is that men and women need to avoid sexual misconduct. They are expected to know on their own what that may be. When it comes to monks and nuns on the other hand, they are expected to remain celibate for the duration of their lives. The only time in this religion that women are blamed or targeted is by the writings of early Buddhist monks who said that women make it heart to be celibate. Hinduism is the religion with the least influence on rape and rape myths.
In conclusion, this article states that rape myths are derived from the low status of women and the belief by men that they own their wives. These beliefs are based on culture and how people are raised. Religion is such a powerful entity in the world, it seems almost wrong to go against the beliefs of our people so we follow the norms.
I chose this article because the title interested me, I have never thought of rape in relation to religion because it seems like such an evil, ungodly act against humans. The format of this article is to discuss research of different cultures and religions from throughout the world and their views on women and rape. The research is based on original writings of each religion and even studies conducted within each. Now that I have read the article, I think it’s important and relevant to discuss rape in terms of religion because sometimes people justify their actions within their religions, even if it is inhumane.
When it comes to Islam, women are thought of as property, not people. The burka for example, this is a symbol of control over women. In the article when it discusses that most people believe that the Qur’an grants equality to both genders, yet men interpret it for their own interests, I felt that this was contradictory. Either men and women are equal, or they are not. I do agree that men should be guardians to women though but out of respect, not for the sake of making her obedient. Then there is an agenda, and the only justified agenda should be to support and honor the woman that you love. Also, the phrase that states that honor is between the legs of a woman is very offensive. Justifying mistreatment of a woman by saying that your honor is between her legs is not only disgusting but also justifies the belief that women are property. When a woman is raped, men will believe that they are dishonored and that’s where victim-blaming and punishment start to become common.
Hinduism is similar but different because it focuses more on the position of the woman. She is a girl, therefore she has no rights. Did she choose to be a girl? Or did she grow up and learn that she was a girl? That is something for men to consider. I do not remember voting on which gender I would like my embryo-self to develop as. Not only is gender natural, but so is menstruation and pregnancy. Menstruation is something we cannot control but in order for girls to become pregnant they will need a man, so how is pregnancy the woman’s fault alone? It is not. I can understand where people might believe that a woman who is pregnant out of wedlock may be impure, but also a man was involved there too. Purity for women is important yes but it is also a very personal trait. If a woman’s purity is robbed from her and she comes forward and is honest, why should that constitute a punishment?
After reading this article, Buddhism has definitely earned the majority of my respect because it is not based on so many rules as it is on peaceful beliefs. The only real rules are that monks and nuns must remain celibate. Other than that, there are no marriage guidelines or sex rules other than avoiding sexual misconduct (which males and females are expected to know). I like that Buddhism has the least contribution or influence on rape myths. This makes me feel safer for the women living in Buddhist cultures. If Buddhism is based on relieving our suffering then hopefully men will not cause women to suffer by rape or domestic violence of any kind.
The conclusion of this article shows that rape myths are man-made and not the fault of women. Aside from Buddhism, the other religions are interpreted by men to justify their actions and that is not fair. If the word of any God is to be interpreted, it should be interpreted in the context that it was written, not at the convenience of a violent act. That is not fair.
- Franiuk, R., & Shain, E. A. (2011). Beyond Christianity: The Status of Women and Rape Myths. Sex Roles, 65, 783-791.