The Position of Women in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Cult
Jehovah’s Witnesses is an exclusive and restrictive religion whose members claim to be on the path to an enlightening and everlasting life. However, women raised in this cult claim some of their practices represent a serious violation of human rights. For example, there is no gender equality, and women are prevented from advancing in their careers. Lara Kaput, a former Jehovah’s Witness, reveals the position of women in this organisation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses is a millenarian evangelical religion founded in 1870 by Charles Taze Russell. The Witnesses believe their cult is a restoration of first-century Christianity and the doctrine is based on the entire Protestant canon of scripture, which is considered the inerrant word of God.
Female members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses face multiple restrictions in their life. First, they have the lowest positions in the religious hierarchy and, most of the time, they are excluded from any governing decisions.
“I [was] many levels down the hierarchy. The hierarchy is in this order: The Governing Body, The Travelling Overseers, The Congregations, The Elders, The Ministerial Servants, then men and then women.” - Lara Kaput.
|Image of a Bible lying open midway on a table. Most of the picture is in greyscale, except for the strip of fabric acting as a bookmark, which is bright red.
Lara claimed she was depressed and felt her intelligence was a threat to the community. In the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, women are supposed to be housewives and dedicate their life to witnessing (a common practice of converting new worshippers through door-to-door preaching). Furthermore, it is rare for Jehovah’s Witnesses women to have access to higher education, because they must procreate and not build careers.
“Females are expected to spend lots of hours witnessing, [therefore] there is no time for a college degree or any other intellectual activities.” - Lara Kaput.
Since childhood, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to be submissive and not question anything with regards to their religion. This cult often uses mind control, especially with young women. The elders of the community make sure the women get married, give birth to children and then educate them in the spirit of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, there is also another traumatizing experience called shunning. If a member disrespects the community or refuses to fulfill orders, they will be automatically excluded from the congregation. Therefore, there are many cases when families are separated, and even close relatives are not allowed to talk to the shunned members.
“I always got into trouble a lot in childhood because I was a critical thinker. If you’re continually questioning [what] you have been taught, you’ll be shunned.” - Lara Kaput.
|Black and white image of a white woman's upper torso up to the neck, with arms in the prayer position. She is wearing a floral dress and holding a cross on a chain.
The mind control goes even further because the personal lives of women are controlled in detail by the elders. Women are pressured to get married and, if they don’t, are labeled as difficult people. So-called leftover women are seen as aberrations, and they are often rejected by the community. There is also a great deal of pressure placed on the intimate lives of women. Jehovah’s Witnesses women are expected to be virgins upon their marriage. The dating process is also very religious. When a young woman decides to date someone, the prospective couple is supervised by family friends or acquaintances to avoid premarital sex.
“If you break the law and have sex, you will be unable to get married and automatically excluded from the organisation.” - Lara Kaput.
Reconciliation is possible. However, the shunned woman is judged by a special committee which decides whether to keep her or not. The members of this commission are allowed to ask her very intimate and uncomfortable questions. For instance, they may ask her to speak in detail about sexual intercourse.
All these practices represent a serious violation of human rights and young women especially are endangered because they are easily manipulated. To conclude, in this religion, men and women are not equal, and there are different expectations for both genders. Men have to provide for the family, while the women have to dedicate their lives to the process of witnessing.
By: Adela Marian
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. The opinions shared in these pieces belong to the authors.