“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” Cor 14:34

If we take cultural relativism seriously, there are very few churches in the 21st century that uphold Paul’s views of the early church on women. However, with Putin set to visit Mount Athos for the first time, media attention has turned to the surprising list of places that women are still barred from, with Mount Athos firmly at the top- where women have not set foot for 1000 years.

There are two main reasons that Mount Athos in particular has remained female free, firstly as a monastery the island is one of total celibacy and women are thought to be an unnecessary temptation for the monks. Secondly, there is a tale of the Virgin Mary who discovered the island and loved it so much she asked for it to be hers, it is seen that because of this she is all the female influence that the island needs!

The list is not just monasteries, however, there are a number of religious institutions, many of which are based in India that don’t allow women of possible menstruation age, something that is seen as an unholy. Religious institutions aren’t the only places that feature on the list, there is even a Starbucks in Jeddah that refused entry to women, indicative, perhaps, of the culture of the country of Saudi Arabia.

Potential Theology students might wish to think about the implications of religious texts for the 21st century and how the sociology of religion affects physical spaces. HSPS applicants may wish to consider how these cultures have developed without women. Finally, Geography candidates can think about how the movement of cultures and the movement of women is affected by these kinds of bans.

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