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Book: Explorations in Women, Rights, and Religions

Chapter: Women, Ordination, and a Buddhist Perspective: A Violation of Rights?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38843


By taking women’s ordination – a main gender issue debated in Buddhism – as an example, I reason why discrimination against women in religion not only violates women’s human rights but also basic Buddhist principles such as non-violence. I question whether from a Buddhist perspective religion and rights are two mutually exclusive terms, and then discuss two areas of tension: a tension between religious and secular law on the one hand and a tension between religious freedom and gender equality on the other. Based on this, I analyze how the dynamics of these areas of tension and gender issues could become a driving force for interreligious dialogue and for dialogue between religions and secular societies.
In many world religions, women are discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens – Buddhism does not constitute an exception. This will be demonstrated in the context of the Buddha’s teaching, on the one hand, and of contemporary societies, on the other hand. A special focus lies on the compatibility of Buddhism with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution, the so-called Basic Law, of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Human rights play an important role in this postmodern world. Therefore religions are called upon to take a stand on it. Although the term “human rights” is not part of the Buddhist vocabulary, the basic idea of human rights is not alien to Buddhism (Schmidt-Leukel 2010; Tsedroen 2010; Roloff 2015).

Chapter Contributors

  • Carola Roloff ( - croloff) 'Academy of World Religions, University of Hamburg'