Resolution 1464 (2005)1
Women and religion in Europe
1. In the lives of many European women, religion
continues to play an important role. Whether they are
believers or not, most women are affected in one way or another by the
attitude of different faiths towards women, directly or through their
traditional influence on society or the State.
2. This influence is seldom benign: womens rights are
often curtailed or violated in the name of religion.
While most religions teach equality of women and men before God, they
attribute different roles to women and men on earth. Religiously motivated
gender stereotypes have conferred upon men a sense of superiority which has
led to discriminatory treatment of women by men and even violence at their
3. At one end of the spectrum lie the extreme
violations of womens human rights such as so-called honour crimes, forced
marriages and female genital mutilation, which although still rare in
Europe are on the rise in some communities.
4. At the other end are more subtle and less
spectacular forms of intolerance and discrimination which are much more
widespread in Europe and which can be just as effective in achieving the
subjection of women, such as the refusal to put into question a patriarchal
culture which holds up the role of wife, mother and housewife as the ideal,
and the refusal to adopt positive measures in favour of women (for example,
in parliamentary elections).
5. All women living in Council of Europe member states
have a right to equality and dignity in all areas of life.
Freedom of religion cannot be accepted as a pretext to
justify violations of womens rights, be they open or subtle, legal or
illegal, practised with or without the nominal consent of the victims
6. It is the duty of the member states of the Council
of Europe to protect women against violations of their rights in the name of
religion and to promote and fully implement gender equality.
States must not accept any religious or cultural relativism
of womens human rights. They must not agree to justify discrimination and
inequality affecting women on grounds such as physical or biological
differentiation based on or attributed to religion. They must fight against
religiously motivated stereotypes of female and male roles from an early
age, including in schools.
7. The Parliamentary Assembly thus calls on the member
states of the Council of Europe to:
7.1. fully protect all women living in their country
against all violations of their rights based on or attributed to religion
7.1.1. putting into place and enforcing specific and
effective policies to fight all violations of womens right to life, to
bodily integrity, freedom of movement and free choice of partner,
including so-called honour crimes, forced marriage and female genital
mutilation, wherever and by whomever they are committed, however they are
justified, and regardless of the nominal consent of the victim; this means
that freedom of religion is limited by human rights;
7.1.2. refusing to recognise foreign family codes
and personal status laws based on religious principles which violate
womens rights, and ceasing to apply them on their own soil, renegotiating
bilateral treaties if necessary;
7.2. take a stand against violations of womens human
rights justified by religious or cultural relativism everywhere in the
world, including in international fora such as the United Nations or the
7.3. guarantee the separation between the Church and
the State which is necessary to ensure that women are not subjected to
religiously inspired policies and laws (for example, in the area of family,
divorce, and abortion law);
7.4. ensure that freedom of religion and respect for
culture and tradition are not accepted as pretexts to justify violations of
womens rights, including when underage girls are forced to submit to
religious codes (including dress codes), their freedom of movement is
curtailed or their access to contraception is barred by their family or
7.5. where religious education is permitted in
schools, ensure that this teaching is in conformity with gender equality
7.6. take a stand against any religious doctrine which
is antidemocratic or disrespectful of human rights, especially womens
rights, and refuse to allow such doctrines to influence political decision
7.7. actively promote respect of womens rights,
equality and dignity in all areas of life when engaging in dialogue with
representatives of different religions, and work on achieving full gender
equality in society.
1. Assembly debate on 4 October 2005 (26th Sitting) (see Doc.
10670, report of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men,
rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 4
October 2005 (26th Sitting).