Women’s rights

Women’s rights

End religious subordination of women and girls.

Throughout the world, 50% of the human race face discrimination, oppression and violence because they are female.

Misogyny is frequently condoned and enabled by religion.

Women's rights are, and have always been, a secularist issue.

Secularists have long challenged religious threats to women's rights. The National Secular Society's founders and earliest members were committed feminists and suffragettes. They recognised that religion is a key barrier to women's rights.

Most world religions are patriarchal. They not only restrict women from the clergy, but many also preach that women should be subordinate to men in wider society and adhere to regressive gender roles.

  • The wage gap between men and women is eight percentage points wider in the five most religious states than in the five most secular, with women making 18% less than men in the least religious states and 26% less in the most religious.

  • Worldwide, more than 250 million women have an unmet need for contraception, and half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Gender inequality is the strongest of all predictors of unintended pregnancy.

Around the world, religious misogyny underpins policies restricting women's access to education, political participation and wider society. It entrenches sexist notions about 'modesty' and women's bodies. It enables male domination over women and violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based abuse. Such problems exist even in communities in the UK, often enabled by authorities' deference to religious leaders. Even the established church retains sexist policies.

Sensitivities around criticising religion often lead to this important factor of women's inequality being ignored and waved aside.

Religion can never excuse discrimination and oppression of half of humanity because they are women. We continue to challenge religious misogyny as we have done from the beginning.

Take action!

1. Share your story

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2. Join the National Secular Society

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

EleniVasiliou, Shutterstock

NSS tells Scottish Government to keep religious dogma out of sex ed

Posted: Thu, 23 Nov 2023 13:19

NSS: provisions in new guidance on sex education leaves door open for religious ideology, risking children's wellbeing.

Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

NSS: Don’t let NI faith schools fail pupils on reproductive rights

Posted: Wed, 15 Nov 2023 13:19

Requirement for RSE to reflect "religious principles" conflicts with neutral lessons on reproductive health in NI schools, NSS says.