Spring 2015
Answer fully the questions below. Essay should be typed and double-spaced. You should reference the texts, assigned readings, and whenever appropriate, and may use any other resources you like. All work must be your own. Plagiarism is the Ultimate Sin, so be sure to attribute any ideas you borrow; any accepted citation style is permissible. (Should you wish to cite something said in class, a simple “in class we discussed,” or something similar, is sufficient.)
As noted, I am not looking for a “right” or “wrong” answer here; rather, better or worse. Write enough to demonstrate that you understand and have thought carefully about the issues raised.
Text: Sarah L. Henderson and Alana S. Jeydel, Women and Politics in a Global World (3rd Edition)
1. Consider the following situations (none of which are hypothetical):
Consistent with the principle of complete separation of church and state, the French government passes a law banning students in public schools from wearing religious apparel, including hijab for Muslim girls (a French legislator says that the veil symbolizes the subordination of Muslim women and therefore is unacceptable in France). Traditional Muslim culture in Afghanistan generally forbids women from working for a living and provides that (since her husband must provide for her) a woman’s inheritance shall be only half that of her brothers. A fundamentalist LDS family files a lawsuit challenging Canada’s ban on polygyny, which they say that their religion demands. Against her wishes, a Dalit family in India removes their daughter from school after her second menses and prepares her for an arranged marriage. A tribal court in rural Pakistan orders a woman to be publicly gang-raped after her brother is accused of having an affair with another village woman. A Jordanian man, with his family’s approval, stabs his younger sister 27 times and slits her throat after she went on an unsupervised outing with a boy, thereby besmirching the family’s honor.
The common point in each of these cases is a clash between cultural and/or religious norms and internationally recognized women’s rights. Address the following questions: When women’s rights, individually and/or collectively, conflict with a society’s cultural and/or religious beliefs, which takes precedence? Under what conditions? Can and should cultural practices be separated from religious ones in regards to women’s rights? What women’s rights can be regarded as universal, if any? What general principles can you devise to deal with such conflicts? In your answer, keep in mind the importance of religion/culture to a society and the provisions of documents such as the UNUDHR and the CEDAW.

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