The role and status of women in any religion in the word is known to be controversial.
In Buddhism and Confucianism, women are seen as unequal and some of their belief promotes
gender inequality. As outsiders of both main Chinese religions, we wonder how women put up
with the gender inequalities. Women go through with the inequalities because they respect their
faith and believe deeply in the teachings of Buddha for Buddhism, and Confucius for
Confucianism. Much research and also thought has been put together to obtain true status of
women in these Chinese religions. Women in these religions are seen as vulnerable of the
society, making the treatment of women seem much harsher. Women will always be treated
differently than men, especially in both of these religions, but as women they learn to accept it
and continue to live their life as suitable as possible.
In Buddhism, the teaching that being born as a woman is a result of previous bad karma
and misfortune because women will experience many difficulties in life is taught by some
influential temples, monks, and scholars(Khuankaew). Women who are abused by their husbands
and partners are experiencing the results of previous life’s karma and they can’t do anything
about it except make more merit in this lifetime (Khuankaew). Buddha’s first followers were all
monks and the Buddha’s aunt, Maha Pajapati Gotami, was the first woman, who requested to
join the sangha, Buddha’s community of monks, but the Buddha refused her (Chodron). Women
were not highly respected and had few rights at that time. Buddha refused the woman who loved
and raised him after his own mother’s death and only accepted her after Ananda, Buddha’s
cousin, convinced him to let the women join the Sangha because Ananda believes women are
also capable of attaining enlightenment (Chodron). The Buddha was probably concerned about
what people would think if women have the same respect and status as men. Male body is
sacred, higher and more important/superior than the female body, making the teachers and
leaders of Buddhism to be only male monks (Khuankaew). It does not matter if the nun has been
ordained for hundred years, they are still considered lower than a newly ordained child monk
(Chodron). In Thailand and a few other Theravada Buddhist countries, women are not even
allowed to sit beside and touch monks because they believe that women are temptations against
the monk’s enlightenment. Women are also not allowed to enter some sacred sites (Khuankaew).
These teachings have truly affected how women are viewed and treated. Major and minor
decisions are controlled by their parents, husbands and in-laws making them vulnerable, and to
be treated unfairly.
There is little evidence as to the status of women in Japanese history. According to
Chinese descriptions of the Japanese during the Common Era, men and women were equal in