By: Isaac Conrad Herrera SommersPDF
Women around the world suffer from discriminatory treatment ranging from violent persecution to social differentiation. Likewise, religious people are routinely targeted because of their faith. Moreover, many women of faith have historically been and are still today subject to increased risk of harm or actually experience a greater level of targeted harm (as compared to non-religious women or religious men) because of the interplay between their religious and gender identities. Despite this, a number of the most prominent international legal institutions that deal directly with discrimination against women inadequately use intersectional language to refer to religious women. In fact, there is a notable gap in scholarship and legal documents specifically addressing the disparate impact of discrimination toward religious women and a tendency to treat religion more as a source of oppression than as a distinct identity. Although many international organizations and agreements address issues of gender and religious discrimination separately, human rights bodies need to do more to address the intersection of gendered religious discrimination. This Note is directed both at audiences who may be skeptical of or hostile toward intersectionality as a legal or policy framework, and at audiences who may support intersectionality but who are skeptical of or hostile toward religion. It addresses the importance of religious and gender identities and the ways those two identities are often inextricably linked. This Note highlights a variety of historical and contemporary examples of persecution of religious women through an intersectional perspective, evaluates the failings of various international human rights institutions to address gendered religious persecution, and proposes a variety of recommendations for such groups to more consistently employ intersectionality to advance the human rights of women of faith.