Philosophy and Religion: Do Activists for Women’s Health Need Them?



As virtually all of the contributors to this volume illustrate eloquently, women suffer from egregious health inequities worldwide. As Lesley Doyal points out in her opening chapter women make up about 70 percent of the poor globally, the aggregate number of maternal deaths has increased to around 600,000 annually, and women now constitute the majority of those infected by HIV. A recent overview of the intersections of gender, health, and equity confirms that the “most powerful determinants” of health are social, cultural, and economic conditions, including “income distribution, sanitation, housing, nutrition, consumption, work environment, employment, social and family structures, education, community influences, and individual behaviors.”1 Health is, then, embedded in a web of multiple social factors that are interdependent with power relations in society. According to this same review, gender “is a key form of social stratification, which also determines unequal access to resources, biased public representation, and discriminatory institutional policies.”2 Therefore, addressing health equity for women involves exposing, analyzing, and challenging cultural norms that assign women to places of inferior social influence and privilege. These cultural norms are pervasive and well entrenched, rationalized with theories of women’s nature, sacralized by religious ideologies, and reinforced by daily practices that both express and vindicate the ideas behind them.


Religious Tradition Health Equity Capability Approach Muslim Woman Discourse Theory 
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© Ilona Kickbusch, Kari A. Hartwig, and Justin M. List 2005

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