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Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and more former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights[…]

Though it is a sensitive issue, the former President of Ireland says leaders of churches, mosques, and temples have a responsibility to counter religious practices that subjugate women.

Question: Is religion an impediment to women’s rights?

Mary Robinson:  I think we have to be careful in how we look at that, and the Elders that I belong to, the Elders that were brought together when Nelson Mandela gave a lot of thought to how we could support equality of women and girls, the empowerment of women and girls.  And we actually decided that we would focus on that difficult issue, that religion and different religions and tradition in culture is sometimes distorted and not only sometimes, but frequently distorted to subjugate women and limit them, and even justify harmful practices like genital cutting.  And the sheer sense that the boy is more important, the boy will go into the priesthood, the boy will go into the religious life, does have a bearing and religious leaders have to understand that they have a responsibility to promote the equality and empowerment of women and that may mean they have to change practices in churches and mosques and temples.