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Women, Development, Democracy and Freedom Seville 23th december 2001 I have accepted wholeheartedly to coordinate this ?Seminar?; however, I have not prepared an introductory speech as such. I have come here to listen, to talk and to discuss with the participants of this seminar. I would like to thank everyone, and extend my special thanks to HM Queen Sophia for having accepted the Honorary Presidency of this meeting. The main issues of this forum, detailed in the introductory document, have already been cited in the foregoing presentations, which I sincerely appreciate. Insofar as I am concerned, I will try to draw my conclusions when this meeting concludes tomorrow. However, there is one issue in which I am particularly interested since it has been the principal theme of my human and political experience, and I hope that, during these days, all of us will meditate on this issue, in accordance with each one?s sensibility. I am talking about a very topical issue - political secularization. In my opinion, there is an unquestionable need to segregate religion ? all the religions – from the daily practice of politics, and the political confrontations to conquer power and governance of contemporary societies. History has demonstrated that disasters occur whenever religion is at the service of politics (or politics is at the service of religion) to legitimize power and ambitions for their own sake ? this has been the case from the Catholic Inquisitors to the Taliban. According to José Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel laureate in Literature, these disasters are carried out under the emblem of the most aberrant of all sacrileges: kill in the name of God. The problems surface when a political faction, who pursues a goal that is not always honorable, intermingles with a religion, frequently to attain consensus and legitimacy, and create a State. This situation is in itself a contradiction since the profession of a religious faith - which is an inalienable human right ? is chosen by and affects each person individually, whereas the ?Established Church? is fatally predisposed to constrain and subjugate believers and disbelievers, or any person who belongs a different denomination other than the established church, or laypeople. The Established Church is the antechamber of injustice, discrimination and intolerance. The Nigerian Nobel laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka, whose country has also been torn by bloody political and religious conflicts, said, ?In the contemporary world, the only universal truth that can be understood, both subjectively and objectively, is humanity?. I would add that since all the religions recognize the universal values of humanism, the only possible future for the world is equality and coexistence of all religious beliefs, endorsed by humanist and nondenominational States. Immigration, which is one of the most sensitive issues of intermediterranean partnership, is proof of what I am saying. Currently, there are more than 30 million Muslims in Europe who are undoubtedly having problems; nonetheless, they have freedom of religion, and, by and large, freedom of culture. This is the preface to a multiethnic Europe in process of consolidation, and this would not have been possible if the European States had been denominational. The States can respond to all the needs demanded by society, without enforcing any type of constraints, thanks to their nondenominational nature. What about women? You are probably asking yourselves: How does the segregation of politics and religion affect us especially as women? Well, I sincerely believe that, in the past and in practice, the three religions professed in the Mediterranean ? interpreted and governed only by men ? is laden with a fair share of misogyny. It has been conclusively substantiated that religion is a powerful ally of misogyny; men?s need to dominate women is greater than their need to defeat their foe. In Europe, the religious establishment (especially the Catholic Church) has always offered a ferocious resistance to the ongoing struggle for women?s emancipation and equality. This resistance is even more difficult to overcome when the religious establishment can influence politics through, more or less, overt denominational political parties. I am recalling the memorable battles fought in my country to legalize divorce and voluntary termination of pregnancy; these two battles were fought not only on behalf of the dignity of women but also to solve very serious social problems. Religious authorities provide individual solutions to these problems (in fact, believers forebear divorce and abortion because they abstain from sin), however, the State must provide a solution germane to believers and disbelievers. Those of you who know me are aware that I am not making these statements ?because of September 11? nor to moralize. During the past years, I have been fighting my own private war against the Taliban, and, at the same time, I have spoken up against the Catholic Church for its inability to take advantage of the scientific developments that could alleviate human suffering. I have been outraged by the magnificent movie on the fate of orthodox Jewish women produced by the Israeli Amos Gitai. A State in which all the citizens are considered equal, whatever their religious beliefs, if any, cannot endorse the equation in which ?sin is equal to crime", yet, this equation is applied by denominational States, the ones in which politics and religion ?adopt? each other. I believe that the laws of a modern State, which must be necessarily nondenominational due to the reasons I have explained already, must not ?rule over the conscience? of its people, in the manner of religious doctrines. The purpose of the laws of a State is to guarantee the free exercise of the basic rights, starting with freedom of thought and freedom of religion. The laws of a State dictate and guarantee the rights and obligations of the citizens; however, it does not intervene in the private domain that is governed by the individual conscience. For this reason, I agree with the Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun who wrote, "The most pressing issue is to segregate religion and politics. So long as the rulers exploit religion, we will continue to suffer problems and pathologies such as fanaticism and its corollaries, terrorism andignorance". In this world, where borders are increasingly unimportant, the Mediterranean Sea, which we all share, has become a ?small geopolitical space?, somewhat like a village community where we must learn to coexist according to common principles, values and rules. I would like to apologize sincerely if anyone has taken offense for the opinions I have expressed, which are the embodiment of my conscience and beliefs. Yet, it is precisely with the people who do not share my ideas with whom I would like to reason during this meeting.

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