I was one of the speakers for the Dublin conference on ‘Empowering Women Through Secularism’ this year. It was a great conference, and a great declaration was made. All we want is to make our world a better place.
1. Secular Values in Society
The secular values that will empower women are science-based reason, equality and empathy in alliance with the principles of feminism.
Priorities in democratic states: secular values will protect and advance already-established freedoms. Cultural and religious beliefs must not be used to deny or limit these freedoms.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: where secular values are not recognized or protected by laws, such laws should be established and applied, and address the issues that deny women full participation in society and government.
2. Separation of Religion and State
Priorities in democratic states: the Constitution should make explicit mention of the separation of religion and state. The state should not fund religions or beliefs. Also, social services, health care services or education accorded to citizens should respect the law; and all state practices should be neutral.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: certain things are fundamental in order to take first steps towards separation of religion and state. Access to education and information should be free and unrestricted. The international community should be vigilant on the application of human rights and take appropriate action where necessary.
3. Human Rights
Human rights are universal, and should be applied equally in democratic and nondemocratic states. Women’s rights are human rights, not separate rights for women.
Priorities in democratic states: women should have equal sexual, reproductive and economic rights in practice as well as in legislation.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: the right to autonomy, self-determination as an individual, and fully equal treatment at all levels of society for men and women. This takes precedence over religious or idealogical dogma.
4. Reproductive Rights
Priorities in democratic states: the state should recognize and respect the right to universal and absolute bodily ownership. Reproductive healthcare services should be free, accessible, non-judgmental and objective. Comprehensive evidence-based sex education should be universally available.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: human rights conventions should be honored in their entirety, and directives should not be vetoed on religious grounds or otherwise. International assistance should be given to grassroots campaigns involved in the provision and promotion of comprehensive reproductive health services and education.
5. Politics and Campaigning
Priorities in democratic states: it is essential to define the concept of morality as not being exclusive to religion, and to clearly promote secular feminist values as being beneficial to all citizens. These values should be communicated to citizens in a concise accessible manner using whatever means are available in order to promote the growth of a wider secular community in the future.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: we should amplify the voices of secular feminists fighting back against oppressive regimes throughout the world, and we should promote strategies and tools to overcome technological arrears in nondemocratic countries.