Equality of Women and Men

“Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God.”

- Baha'u'llah

Equality of Women and Men

Since its inception nearly one hundred and fifty years ago the Bahá’í Faith has taught the equality of the sexes. This was when the women’s movement was only beginning its fight for suffrage in the West and such ideas were unheard of in the Middle East. The Bahá’í Faith is the only independent world religion whose Founder has stated unequivocally that women and men are equal.

Baha’is view equality between the sexes and the full participation of women in every field of human endeavor as essential prerequisites to peace and human progress, and that feminine qualities — such as compassion, nurturing,cooperation and empathy — are essential in creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world civilization. Inequality between the sexes delays not only the advancement of women, but also the progress of civilization itself.

For more than a century, the Baha’is of the United States have worked to advance the status of women by advocating policies and legislation that promote gender equality. They also collaborate with national coalitions on legislation against domestic violence; education on the health implications of violence against women; promotion of complete gender integration in development planning; and advocacy against international gender-based violence.

“The male and female are like the two wings of a bird and when both wings are reinforced with the same impulse the bird of humanity will be enabled to soar heaven-ward to the summit of progress.”
- Abdu'l-Baha

"Why should man, who is endowed with the sense of justice and sensibilities of conscience, be willing that one of the members of the human family should be rated and considered as subordinate? Such differentiation is neither intelligentnor conscientious; therefore, the principle of religion has been revealed by Bahá’u’lláh that woman must be given the privilege of equal education with man and full right to his prerogatives. That is to say, there must be no difference in the education of male and female in order that woman kind may develop equal capacity and importance with man in the social and economic equation. Then the world will attain unity and harmony."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page: 108)

 "Some philosophers and writers have considered woman naturally and by creation inferior to man, claiming as a proof that the brain of man is larger and heavier than that of woman. This is frail and faulty evidence, inasmuch as small brains are often found coupled with superior intellect and large brains possessed by those who are ignorant, even imbecilic. The truth is that God has endowed all humankind with intelligence and perception and has confirmed all as His servants and children; therefore, in the plan and estimate of God there is no distinction between male or female. The soul that manifests pure deeds and spiritual graces is most precious in His sight and nearer to Him in its attainments."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page: 283)

"After the martyrdom of Christ, to Whom be glory, the disciples were greatly disturbed and disheartened. Even Peter had denied Christ and tried to shun Him. It was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who confirmed the wavering disciples in theirfaith, saying, "Was it the body of Christ or the reality of Christ that ye have seen crucified? Surely it was His body. His reality is everlasting and eternal; it hath neither beginning nor ending. Therefore, why are ye perplexed anddiscouraged? Christ always spoke of His being crucified." Mary Magdalene was a mere villager, a peasant woman; yet she became the means of consolation and confirmation to the disciples of Christ."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation ofUniversal Peace, Page: 282)

"In ancient times and medieval ages woman was completely subordinated to man. The cause of this estimate of her inferiority was her lack of education. A woman's life and intellect were limited to the household. Glimpses of this may befound even in the Epistles of Saint Paul. In later centuries the scope and opportunities of a woman's life broadened and increased. Her mind unfolded and developed; her perceptions awakened and deepened. The question concerning her was: Why should a woman be left mentally undeveloped? Science is praiseworthy - whether investigated by the intellectof man or woman. So, little by little, woman advanced, giving increasing evidence of equal capabilities with man - whether in scientific research, political ability or any other sphere of human activity. The conclusion is evident that woman has

been outdistanced through lack of education and intellectual facilities. If given the same educational opportunities or course of study, she would develop the same capacity and abilities."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page: 281)

"The world of humanity consists of two parts: male and female. Each is the complement of the other. Therefore, if one is defective, the other will necessarily be incomplete, and perfection cannot be attained. There is a right hand and a lefthand in the human body, functionally equal in service and administration. If either proves defective, the defect will naturally extend to the other by involving the completeness of the whole; for accomplishment is not normal unless bothare perfect. If we say one hand is deficient, we prove the inability and incapacity of the other; for single-handed there is no full accomplishment. Just as physical accomplishment is complete with two hands, so man and woman, the two parts of the social body, must be perfect. It is not natural that either should remain undeveloped; and until both are perfected, the happiness of the human world will not be realized.

"The most momentous question of this day is international peace and arbitration, and universal peace is impossiblewithout universal suffrage. Children are educated by the women. The mother bears the troubles and anxieties of rearingthe child, undergoes the ordeal of its birth and training. Therefore, it is most difficult for mothers to send to the battlefield those upon whom they have lavished such love and care. Consider a son reared and trained twenty years by a devoted mother. What sleepless nights and restless, anxious days she has spent! Having brought him through dangers and difficulties to the age of maturity, how agonizing then to sacrifice him upon the battlefield! Therefore, the mothers will not sanction war nor be satisfied with it. So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. This is true and without doubt."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Pages: 134-135)

"In this great Cycle and wondrous Dispensation some women have been raised up who were the emblems of unity and ensigns of oneness, for the revelation of divine bestowals is received by men and women in equal measure. "Verily the most honoured in the sight of God is the most virtuous amongst you"(5) is applicable to both men and women, to servants and handmaidens. All are under the shadow of the Word of God and all derive their strength from the bounties of the Lord. Therefore, do not consider thyself to be insignificant by doubting what a handmaiden living behind the veil can do...."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: No. 2187, Women, Page: 395)

"Consider how many empresses have come and gone since the time of Christ. Each was the ruler of a country but no wall trace and name of them is lost, while Mary Magdalene, who was only a peasant and a maidservant of God, still shineth from the horizon of everlasting glory. Strive thou, therefore, to remain the maidservant of God."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections ... `Abdu’l-Bahá, Page: 123)

"…there must be an equality of rights between men and women. Women shall receive an equal privilege of education. This will enable them to qualify and progress in all degrees of occupation and accomplishment. For the world of humanity possesses two wings: man and woman. If one wing remains incapable and defective, it will restrict the power of the other, and full flight will be impossible. Therefore, the completeness and perfection of the human world are dependent upon the equal development of these two wings."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page: 318)

"Furthermore, the education of women is of greater importance than the education of men, for they are the mothers of the race, and mothers rear the children. The first teachers of children are the mothers. Therefore, they must be capably trained in order to educate both sons and daughters. There are many provisions in the words of Bahá’u’lláh in regard to this.

"He promulgated the adoption of the same course of education for man and woman. Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study, thereby promoting unity of the sexes. When all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed."

(`Abdu’l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page: 175)

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