Two wings of a bird; equality of women, men

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2007

In the Bah’ scriptures the equality of the sexes is a cornerstone of God’s plan for human development and prosperity: The full and equal participation of women in all spheres of life is essential to social and economic development, the abolition of war and the ultimate establishment of a united world.

The world of humanity is like a bird, it possesses two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment.

Baha’is view the achievement of equality between the sexes and the full participation of women in every field of human endeavor as an essential prerequisite to peace and human progress. Inequality between the sexes retards not only the advancement of women, but also the progress of civilization itself.

The moral person is a social actor who, having effected change in himself or herself, also has responsibility to contribute to the transformation of the social order.

For more than a century, the Baha’is of the United States have worked to give full expression in their community life to the principle of the equality of women and men. They work to advance the status of women by advocating policies and legislation that promote gender equality.

Bahai International Community and the International Presentation Association hosted “Beyond Violence Prevention: Creating a Culture to Enable Women’s Security and Development,” a panel discussion at the United Nations in September 2006.

At the conference Layli Miller-Muro, a lawyer and the founder of the Tahirih Justice Center, a women’s advocacy organization in Virginia, said that often laws are not enough to address deep-seated attitudes.

She described the case of a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her step-father in retaliation for turning him in to the police for brutally beating her mother.

“All the proper laws were in place, the girl had free lawyers, and she was surrounded by a sympathetic and trained police force, but none of these things could prevent the abuse of this child,” said Miller-Muro.

She said such attitudes can only be addressed by a spiritual transformation, both for societies as well as individuals.

“Religion has the capacity for good, to inspire, to motivate, to transform human behavior,” said Miller-Muro. “People are willing to change their behavior for a higher power, not for a World Bank loan.”

In Alaska, Katie Bauer a 17-year-old Homer student, will travel to New York City later this month to attend a U.N. conference. Katie will be a delegate on the commission on the Status of Women 2007. She will serve on the Baha’i International Community Delegation, representing the Baha’i international community, as well as Baha’is in Alaska.

This year’s priority theme of the commission is the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.

“As a member of the Baha’i International Community Delegation, you will have the opportunity to observe the Commission on the Status of Women sessions, participate in non-governmental events such as briefings and panel discussions, share your perspective on discrimination and violence against girls in your country and network with other non-governmental representatives from around the world,” Fulya Vekiloglu, a representative to the U.N., wrote to Katie and Carol Krein, a second delegate from Alaska.

To Baha’is the long-standing and deeply rooted condition of inequality must be eliminated. To overcome such a condition requires the exercise of nothing short of “genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort.”

Paul Gray is a Baha’i in Soldotna. Inter faith devotional held at 11 a.m. Sundays at Paul and Nancy Grays home 262-9008.

It is open to the public.

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