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Religion Library: Baha'i

Gender and Sexuality

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One of the main concerns of the Baha'i participation in these conferences has been to promote the education of the female child in the declarations and programs of action emerging from these conferences and commissions. One of the effects of these conferences has been to prompt the Baha'i community to undergo periodic reviews of how well it is performing in advancing the role of women in Baha'i communities. Old understandings and customs are not changed overnight, but there has been a steady advance in the number of women taking part in Baha'i administrative bodies. The Baha'i community has also been involved in social action and campaigning over issues such as female genital mutilation, child brides, sex trafficking, sex tourism, HIV/AIDs, sexual violence, and domestic violence.

With regard to the question of sexuality, most Baha'is regard the concentration on this issue in present-day Western societies as an inevitable and unfortunate feature of their concentration on physical and material things. Baha'i teachings advocate modesty, chastity, and faithfulness in marriage and deplore adultery and promiscuity. Baha'is consider that people are free to adopt any lifestyle they want but that the style of life advocated in the Baha'i teachings is the one that will bring the greatest spiritual development and therefore the greatest human happiness. These teachings advocate that the greatest happiness for individuals and the best framework for society, and especially for the raising of children, is the traditional family group.

While sex is not condemned or considered evil, the Baha'i Faith advocates that sexual relations should be confined to heterosexual married couples. This has led to attacks on the Baha'i Faith as being homophobic, however Baha'is point out that what goes on behind closed doors is not within the purview of the Baha'i institutions as long as no one is being harmed. The only actions that are censured are public ones that bring the Baha'i community into disrepute, and this applies just as much to heterosexuals as to homosexuals. What actions might bring the Baha'i Faith into disrepute varies from one culture to another and over time. In the West at least, few actions nowadays are likely to cause public condemnation, and so few Baha'is are sanctioned for private, mutually consenting, adult sexual activity.

Study Questions:
     1.    Do Baha’is believe in the equality of women and men?
     2.    What hindrances to humanity’s progress are there as long as women are not given equality?
     3.    What differences between women and men do the Baha'i scriptures acknowledge?
     4.    What have Baha’is done to try to raise the social role of women?
     5.    What is the Baha'i attitude toward homosexuality?


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