Do secularism and gender equality really go hand in hand?

Source: The Guardian

Gender inequality is increasing. According to a new study by the World Economic Forum, it will now take 100 years to close the global gender gap, up from its previous estimate of 83 years. It’s the first time the organization has recorded a worsening of women’s position in the world. Could the retreat of secularism be partly to blame?

One long-held assumption is that gender equality is an enduring principle of secularism, characterized by the separation of the political from the religious and the public from the private.

Yet the famed gender historian Joan Wallach Scott, in her new book, Sex and Secularism, claims the opposite is true. “The notion that equality between the sexes is inherent to the logic of secularism”, she argues, “is false”. “Gender inequality”, she states, “is not simply the byproduct of the emergence of modern Western nations; rather, that inequality is at its very heart”. Secularism, she adds, has served to account for this fact.

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