Religion, Gender and Citizenship

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Religion is a highly contested issue in trans-local debates on gender and sexuality. While religion is crucial as a source of meaning, belonging, recognition and agency, at the same time, it is a key factor that contributes to the continuation of gender and other inequalities. In and of itself religion is not conducive to either sexual and gender equality or inequality, but there are prominent as well as marginalized religious institutions, traditions and practices around the world which require the subordination of women and girls. On the other hand, religion may foster gender activism, female agency and women’s rights. One example is women’s struggle for suffrage, where religion has been applied to promote as well as to restrict women’s political citizenship. This session encourages papers that address the role of religion in relation to the politics of gender equality and citizenship.

At a global level, modernization and secularization processes co-exist with religious renewal and (re-)sacralization processes. A particularly concerning strand of the latter is that of conservative and/or fundamentalist forms of religion, which are often associated with gender inequalities and unequal citizenship. While this may lead us to ask why many women (and men) are drawn to religious traditions and faith communities that practice sexual inequality and deny women’s rights, it is also important to understand women’s belonging and critical agency within religious contexts.

Faith leaders may be powerful stakeholders in dialogues about gender equality and sexuality, and their influence may be enhanced by the political system. One example is the former U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘global gag rule’ which blocked US funds from being used by any organizations involved in abortion care and advice. Another example is women’s rights and freedoms under Taliban rule. We seek papers that discuss how shifting configurations of religion, gender and citizenship may reinforce or challenge contested policies regarding sexual and gender equality such as marriage, contraception, abortion and prostitution.

We welcome papers that engages past, current or emerging trends in feminist and gender studies of religion and politics/citizenship, papers that offer a thematic overview of major theoretical perspectives, and papers based on empirical research within this field of studies. We also invite papers with intersectional perspectives, centering on how religion, gender, sexuality and ethnicity intersect in constructions of identities and structures of inequality.


Line Nyhagen, Professor of Sociology, Head of Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy, University of Lougborough, is an expert on religion, gender and race. 

Recent publications:

  • Nyhagen, L. (2019). ‘Mosques as Gendered Spaces: The Complexity of Women’s Compliance with, and Resistance to, Dominant Gender Norms, and the Importance of Male Allies’. Religions 10, 321: 1-15. 
  • Nyhagen, L. (2019). 'Contestations of Feminism, Secularism and Religion in the West: The Discursive Othering of Religious and Secular Women'. Nordic Journal of Religion and Society 32 (1), 2019. 
  • Nyhagen, L. (2017). 'The Lived Religion Approach in the Sociology of Religion and its Implications for Secular Feminist Analyses of Religion'. Social Compass 64 (4): 495-511.  

Beatrice Halsaa is professor emerita at the Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo. Her main research areas are citizenship, women’s movements, gender equality policy, and ethnicity. 

Recent publications:

Published Sep. 21, 2021 9:50 AM - Last modified Sep. 21, 2021 2:58 PM