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Do Our Religious Texts Preach Oppression And Patriarchy?

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I sometimes wonder what our religious texts have taught us. I wonder why no woman, or for that matter any man, opposed what is written and preached in our religious texts? Are we afraid to question them or do we just blindly want to follow them?

Why does it not break any woman when she reads the sacred Ramcharita Manas where Tulsidas writes, “dhol gawar shudra pashu nari, sakal tadana ke adhikari”.

This particular phrase, written in Awadhi, has been differently interpreted by different scholars. But as a layman, what I understand from this is that the Dalits and women are meant to be ill-treated! Now, who said it, and in what context, that does not matter. The thing that such an insult was cultivated in our sacred text by a scholarly and saintly person like Tulsidas, wrenches my heart.

Why does Ram demand purity from his wife who stood by him in the worst situations? Why does he abandon Sita and his own sons? And why do we still worship him? It’s true that he killed Ravana, yet he could not do justice to his own wife and children. And, yet, we call him “maryada purushottam”.

Why is Manusmriti considered the Hindu divine law when it is full of prejudice, hatred and discrimination against women?

These are some quotes from Manusmriti which tell us about the plight of women and Dalits:

1.“Matra swastra ………..” – 2/215. Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.

2.”Naudwahay……………..” – 3/8. One should not marry women who have reddish hair, redundant  parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.

3. “Nraksh vraksh ………..” – 3/9. One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations,  trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspires terror.

4. “Yasto na bhavet ….. …..” – 3/10. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.

5. “Uchayangh…………….” – 3/11. Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.

6. “Chandalash ……………” – 3/240. Food offered and served to Brahman after shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal, a pig, a cock,a dog, and a menstruating women.

7.”Asheela  kamvrto………” – 5/157. Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.

8.“Ya to kanya…………….”8/369. In case a woman tears the membrane [hymen] of her Vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on a donkey.

Now shocking as this is, it is, in fact, the reality. This is what has been taught in this divine scripture! Do you wonder now where our society gets its inspiration from? A sacred text which tells us to treat women like dogs cannot be any religion’s divine law. And if it is, then that religion is full of flaws. And one should not put blind faith in a particular religious text, because it simply preaches something!

As a Dalit and a woman, one can very well imagine the sufferings that me and my peers have been going through. In our society, Dalits are treated worse than animals and women are treated as no less than animals. Most of the slangs used even today mention Dalits and women!

Our society has been following the path laid down by Tulsidas. Here, Dalits are still seen working in sewage holes, cleaning human shit. Women still have to prove their virginity, hide their sexual desires, pray and fast for their husbands, treat them as god, do all the chores, be pretty and fertile, embrace motherhood, work to make ends meet, tolerate the brunt of being called impure; they are still forbidden from entering temples, are underpaid, forced to have sex in marriage; the list is never-ending. After all, a woman is meant to be ill-treated and used! This is the reality of our society that we need to battle, and the battle begins in our homes when we start questioning our religious texts and their wisdom.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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