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The Diversity of Womanhood and All of God’s Creatures: Addressing Challenges in the Protection of Women’s Religious Freedoms Using a Novel Classification, Vol. 53

Cochav Elkayam-Levy

17 Apr 2022

The protection of women’s right to freedom of religion or belief presents many challenges to liberal states. Yet, this fundamental right of women has not been recognized as such in global treaties. Women’s entitlement to this right is a neglected matter in international law. When reference is made to the liberty to manifest religion, states are often given the vague guidance that discriminatory practices should be eliminated. However, what happens when it is women who choose to believe those supposedly oppressive practices to be the absolute truth from God or when women seek protection for promoting and practicing new traditions? We tend to focus on the struggle between women’s freedoms and religion, but forget that women are not a homogenous group, especially when it comes to their religious and faith aspirations.

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 J.S.D. and LL.M., University of Pennsylvania Law School; Former Pennsylvania School of Law Human Rights Scholar; Visiting Professor, Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law, Israel. The author was also a Perry World House Fellow, Penn Law’s Rule of Law and Human Rights Fellow, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The author would like to express her special gratitude to Professor William Burke-White for his invaluable guidance and mentorship. Research for this Article was partially supported through the generosity of the University of Pennsylvania Leboy-Davies Award from the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. Finally, the author is grateful to Ilya Rudyak; Keren Horowitz; Tamar Almog; Yofi Tirosh; Frances Raday; Anat Scolnicov; Michal Gat Gilad; Sagy Watemberg Izraeli; Camila Machado and the editors of the Cornell International Law Journal; and participants in workshops at the Salzburg Global Seminar, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, for illuminating conversations and helpful comments on earlier drafts. This Article is dedicated to Hashuva Elkayam, Oded Levy, and in memory of Rachel Levy.