The roles of women in belief sysems- Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity

From 8000BCE to 600CE the role of women in different religions remained fairly minimal, varying between communties. Society at this age was highly patriarchal and women were seen as subordinate to men.


  • Chinese moralists saw orderly, patriarchal families as the foundations for a stable society
  • emphasized the value Xiao, or filial piety, which called for family respect
  • treatise Admonitions for Women, written by a woman (Ban Zhao), taught women to practice humility, obedience, subservience, and devotion towards their husbands


  • status of women was mainly patriarchal
  • most regions continued to treat women in the same way they did before Christianty spread there, subordinately
  • in some communities women were allowed to serve as priests and great power was attributed to the Virgin Mary
  • many communities restricted church offices to men and conceived of Christian dieties as men (in some branches of Christiantity church office positions are still today, restricted to men)


  • still a predominantly patriarchal society.
  • women were expected to direct affairs within their homes (cleaning, raising children, tending to husband, cooking) but no where else
  • they had no public authority, couldn't inherit property, and could not rise to the position of priest
  • the Lawbook of Manu called for respect towards women as long as they were subservient to men
  • practice of Sati (Suttee) clearly demonstrated the postion of women- at the death of their husbands, women were to throw themselves on his funeral pyre, joining him in death (never became widely practiced)
  • women were not allowed to remarry after the death of their husband and expected little out of life after that


  • arose out of Hinduism so it enjoyed many of the same patriarchal values
  • Buddha believed in dismantling the caste system, so in this aspect women gained some rights (more social mobility)

Ultimately, the patriarchal dispositon of society dominated belief systems in the classical era.

Related links:

Islamic gender roles

Hinduism vs. Confucianism

Social Inequalities

Great work. The facts support the thesis.-Katie B.


Although Hinduism and Christianity are similar in their strong patriarchal background, they differ in terms of social mobility of women and emphasis on female fidelity.