Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Restrictions on Women’s Religious Attire


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This report is based on the methodology used in the Pew Research Center’s ongoing study of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion. The goal of the study was to devise quantifiable, objective and transparent measures of the extent to which governments and societal groups impinge on the practice of religion, and to track changes in these measures over time.

As part of its religious restrictions study, the Pew Research Center developed two indexes – the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI) – that are used to gauge the level of religious restrictions and hostilities in nearly 200 countries and self-governing territories. The GRI is based on 20 indicators of ways that national, provincial and local governments restrict religion, including through force and coercion. The SHI is based on 13 indicators of ways in which private individuals and social groups infringe on religious beliefs and practices. The indicators in both indexes are framed as a battery of questions similar to a survey questionnaire.

To answer these questions and construct the two indexes, a team of data coders goes through more than a dozen widely available, frequently cited sources of information involving religion around the world and records which types of religious restrictions and hostilities were present in each country. These sources include reports from U.S. government agencies, several independent, nongovernmental organizations and a variety of European and United Nations bodies. Coders look to the sources for specific, well-documented facts, not for opinions or commentary.

Because the study relies on these government and NGO reports – instead of relying on newspaper articles or other media accounts – there is a delay between when events occur and when Pew Research Center releases its religious restrictions reports. Most of the primary source reports come out months after the year they cover, because it takes time to collect and analyze the information; the Center’s coding analysis also takes time. There are benefits to this approach, however. By relying on a consistent set of well-regarded sources, Pew Research Center is able to make year-to-year comparisons on its measures of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion.

More information on the study’s methodology, including a look at potential information biases in the sources, is available here.

Analyzing restrictions and hostilities involving women’s religious attire

This report expands the coding for one question from the Government Restrictions Index and one question from the Social Hostilities Index. The first question is GRI.Q.10, “Is the wearing of religious symbols, such as head coverings for women and facial hair for men, regulated by law or by any level of government?” The second question is SHI.Q.11, “Were women harassed for violating religious dress codes?” Researchers reviewed the examples coded for each country on these two questions and disaggregated them into four measures concerning women’s religious attire.

To disaggregate question GRI.Q.10, researchers first separated examples of government restrictions on women’s religious attire from government restrictions on unisex or men’s attire. These examples were then further separated according to whether the law, policy or regulation required women to wear certain religious attire or restricted women from wearing religious attire.

SHI.Q.11 focuses on harassment of women over religious dress. Researchers separated examples of harassment into two groups: those involving harassment of women for wearing religious attire and those involving harassment of women for not wearing religious attire.

These disaggregated questions served as the basis of the analysis for this report. The report combines data from 2012 and 2013; incidents happening in either year are included. Combining two years of data helps to address potential information bias in the sources, as individual indicators can be affected by one-time events or temporary circumstances.

Data for 2014 were not available when the information was being collected and analyzed.


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