Roles of men and women

The roles of men and women have seen a lot of changes in modern society. The term gender equality means that all people of all genders are able to enjoy the same rights and opportunities in all aspects of their lives.

UK laws now mean that men and women should have equal rights in all areas such as pay, the right to vote and the job they do. However, this is not always the case, and certainly not always in religion, as men and women have traditionally had different roles to play in religious customs.

The roles of men and women can differ between Christian denominations.

Jesus and early Christians lived in a male-dominated society and the Bible reflects this. The belief that men and women should have different roles is still common in some Christian communities today. This is because they believe that God made men and women differently.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.St Paul's letter to the Ephesians 5:21-22

Other Christians believe that men and women were both made in the image of God and should be treated equally – they should share responsibilities and privileges.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.St Paul's letter to the Galatians 3:28

Many Catholics believe husbands and wives should respect each other's roles within a marriage and value both equally. These roles include those of care within the home, and that of earning money to provide for the family.

Men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and society should create and develop conditions favouring work in the home.Pope John Paul II

The book of Genesis gives accounts of the order of creation of men and women which have been interpreted differently.

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18

Explain what Christians mean by gender equality.

The term gender equality refers to the belief that all genders should be able to enjoy the same rights and opportunities in all aspects of their lives. The Christian Church has different ideas about the role of men and women in religion depending on the denomination.