Doc. 9856

9 juillet 2003

Women and religion in Europe

Motion for a resolution

presented by Mrs Damanaki and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.        In the lives of many European women, religion continues to play an important role. In fact, 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.

2.        The three monotheistic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) have the most followers in Council of Europe member states, but the influence of the different churches on the state and on society varies from country to country. Thus, for example, France is a lay state by virtue of its Constitution; Germany organises religious teaching in schools, and allows Christian, Jewish and Muslim Councils a large say in, for example, matters of ethics; the Russian Orthodox Church holds a predominant position in Russia; and a Muslim revival can be witnessed both in parts of South-Eastern Europe and in immigrant communities across the whole of Europe.

3.        When it comes to the attitude of these faiths to women, however, their influence is not always benign. Equality of women and men is not a doctrine that is central to the faith – on the contrary, centuries-old discrimination against women often continues to reign. It is a well-known fact that, for example, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not allow women to be ordained as priests and condemn both “unnatural” contraception methods and abortion; or that, in general, the Muslim faith is interpreted as requiring the use of headscarves (or more) by women.

4.        The Assembly considers that women living in Council of Europe member states have a right to equality and dignity in all areas of life. This includes the right of women to abide by religious teaching if they so wish – but it also includes their right not to do so, even if this means breaking with the predominant culture and tradition of the community in question. The problem is the reaction of this community, which does not always accept such religious non-conformity practised by women. Some members of the community even go so far as to exclude such women, or resort to so-called “honour crimes” to bring these “errant” women back into the fold (if they do not kill them).

5.        The Assembly recognizes that the question of women and religion is an extremely sensitive one; nevertheless, in view of the broad influence of religion on society in general and the situation of women in particular, it must be tackled. Council of Europe member states should be encouraged to take the appropriate measures to ensure that women have complete freedom to abide or not by religious teaching, and that they suffer no negative consequences whatever their choice.

Signed (see overleaf)

Signed 1:

Damanaki, Greece, UEL

Aguiar, Portugal, EPP/CD

Bauer, Slovakia, EPP/CD

Biga-Friganović, Croatia, SOC

Bindig, Germany, SOC

Cliveti, Romania, SOC

Judd, United Kingdom, SOC

Labucka, Latvia, EPP/CD

Mooney, Ireland, LDR

Zwerver, Netherlands, SOC


1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group