Gender and Religious Freedom

It’s long been noted by development experts that the single fastest and most powerful development tool is protecting gender equality, particularly by empowering women and girls through education and health care. But such goals often run afoul of cultural and religious preferences and beliefs, as the experience of women in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sudan attest.

The most recent example is that of Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who had faced the death penalty for marrying Daniel Wani, a US citizen and non-Muslim. The case had drawn worldwide attention, particularity from conservative American politicians, who viewed Ibrahim’s case as an example of Islamic attacks on Christians. Ibrahim’s death sentence was overturned on Monday and she was freed from jail. But yesterday she was again detained by Sudanese officials who contend that she attempted to leave the country using illegal documents—emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese government.

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