It's hard not to notice the impact of certain religious dictates as one of the major barriers to true gender equality in this world.*
Take the Catholic hospitals in the US:
By the close of 2011, one in nine hospital beds in this country existed in a Catholic or Catholic-sponsored health-care facility. If viewed together as one corporate entity, the ten largest Catholic-sponsored health systems of hospitals and clinics would constitute the largest in the country. And these hospitals are routinely denying medical care to women, citing Catholic doctrine as justification.The crucial point is that it doesn't matter if this happens to patients with different faiths or none at all, because they have no other hospital to go to: They, too, will be potentially subjected to the Catholic rules about contraception, abortion and sterilization, and they, too, might find themselves at risk of not getting the best possible medical care when pregnant.
Or consider the case of the Iranian cartoonist, Atena Farghadani:
An Iranian artist currently serving more than 12 years in prison for criticising the government now faces further charges of “indecency” for allegedly shaking her male lawyer’s hand.
Amnesty International reports that Atena Farghadani, 29, who was jailed after she depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats in a satirical cartoon, may face a longer sentence amid claims over the handshake.
Charges of an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” have been brought against Farghadani and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi amid allegations he visited her in jail and shook her hand - which is illegal in Iran.
And it is illegal in Iran because of the gender segregation rules which are based on that country's interpretation of Islam. It is the gender segregation that is the problem here, because it's extremely unlikely that such a system could ever produce equal rights for women. Separate cannot be truly equal.**
These two examples demonstrates the inherent clashes between many conservative interpretations of religion and women's rights to full human existence. It also follows that when people demand certain religious rights which benefit or harm men and women differently, the shadow attaching to those rights is often a reduction in the rights of women, whether those women are believers or not.
That's because the religious dogmas we still follow are ancient, and if taken ultra-literally would guarantee that women's rights remain at the level societies considered appropriate two thousand years ago.
* For more on this topic, read here and here.
**Except perhaps in a science-fictionish arrangement of two separate-but-equal countries, one for men and one for women, where the trade is one way in sperm and the other way in baby boys.
I haven't found out if Farghadani's lawyer will also be sued for shaking the hand of a woman. But in general sex segregation laws have more severe consequences for women who in the extreme forms are excluded from positions of power because those places are full of men.