By Suresh Chandra Pattanayak
May 15, 2013
Every religion existing today discriminates in some way against women. The scriptures of all religions degrade and denigrate women, put them down and designate women as being inferior to men. This may or may not be the fault of the original prophet who created that particular scripture. But, it is for sure the fault of the men who later on over the years, after the departure of the original prophet, revised the text of those scriptures
Let us take each one of the major religions and first look at its scripture, and decide by reading the scripture what status it has given to women. Second, we have to look at the society in which that particular religion abounds, look at the status of women, and then try to analyse what impact the scripture has had on the status of women in practical life. Suppose we look at the world’s five major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.
The scripture describing the conduct to be followed by Buddhist monks and nuns is called the Vinaya. During Buddha’s lifetime it is possible that nuns were treated similarly to men, due to negative societal elements, nuns could not go out alone asking for alms as the monks did, and were therefore escorted by the monks. Thus it evolved that even for the nuns’ religious ceremonies, monks also had to be present – the kind of thinking developed that the women could not do anything without the presence of the men.
According to Buddhist monks, because a female body is associated with evil, lust and greed, it is not possible for a woman to become spiritually realized. However, if she desires to become a man and mentally becomes a man, she can get realization. Buddha himself said, “The female’s defects … greed, hate, and delusion and other defilements – are greater than the male’s … You (women) should have such an intention … ‘Because I wish to be freed from the impurities of the woman’s body, I will acquire the beautiful and fresh body of a man’.” (!) Despite great obstacles there have been Buddhist nuns whose noble and courageous lives have been recorded for history, one of them being Nangsa Oobum.
We can easily find quotations of women’s oppression from the Bible , for example, I Timothy 2.11-12, where it says “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” In Ephesian 5.22-24, Paul says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as unto the Lord….” And further, “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man”…. Man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.” The apostle Peter says (in I Peter 3.1-2,6) that let wives “be in subjection to your own husbands” and have “chaste conversation coupled with fear.”
The German inquisitors described women as “intellectually deficient, unable to grasp philosophy, burdened with weak memories, not inclined to self-discipline but ready to follow their impulses.”
The sufferings of women under Christian laws have known no bounds. Later on in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the Catholic and Protestant clergy who were in the forefront of the opposition to women’s suffrage, saying that female submission was ordained by God!
The question now arises, that at the beginning of this new millennium, twenty one hundred years after the appearance of the prophet Jesus on this earth, why are Christian women tolerating all this rubbish? The next time a group of good Christian sisters get together to do some volunteer work for their church, let them just sit and re-write the entire Bible and delete all the garbage spoken by Paul and others about women! And let us please not refer to him as St. Paul, because if he really did say the above about women, then it is a sure thing he was no saint. Rather, he was just an ordinary male chauvinist pig! Let no man who abuses, persecutes or slanders a woman (be it his wife or his servant) delude himself into thinking that he is a spiritual human being. A truly realized soul, a genuine saint, regards every created being as an embodiment of God, and hence will be unable to differentiate between man, woman or even animal in terms of intrinsic value.
In the Old Testament when Eve took some fruit from the tree (so the story goes), God then said to her (Genesis 2:4-3:24): “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Now, can we believe that a just God will speak in this manner?? Studying the Old Testament further we find the following statement: “I find bitterer than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare… while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all.” (Ecclesiastes 7:26-28). A still more outrageous sentence follows: “No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.. Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die.” (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24). This sentence is so ridiculous that even the roadside dogs will howl with laughter
Even to this day many devout Jewish men recite in their prayers, “Blessed by God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a women.” Ecclesiasticus is simply rampant with religious edicts against women. According to Jewish tradition, a husband owns his wife as he owns a slave. To this day many husbands deny their wives any control over their property and their earnings. When she married, not only did the wife lose her property, she lost her personality also! Under Jewish law, a husband can divorce his wife any time. But a woman cannot without very strong reasons such as unfulfilled conjugal responsibilities. Worse still, a husband can desert his wife any time and then refuse to grant his wife a divorce. In this case she becomes an agunah – a chained woman. Neither can she divorce, nor can she remarry. In the US today there are maybe 1000-1500 such agunot while in Israel there are more than 15,000. Husbands blackmail their deserted wives for thousands of dollars, finally agreeing to a divorce.“ How is it that Jewish sisters everywhere tolerate this abuse, this persecution – this extreme injustice?
Islam regards women as physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually inferior. This belief is explicitly stated in the Koran – the scripture which is claimed not to have been altered even by one word since the time of Mohammed – and is corroborated by the Hadiths (sayings ascribed to the prophet that are deemed reliable by Muslim theologians). Sadly, in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangla Desh, one cannot ignore the Ulema. The Ulema are the Muslim priests, or mullahs – learned doctors of Islamic law who by their Fatwas (decisions/dictates) regulate the lives of all Muslim citizens. Ibn Al-Ghazzali, the famous Islamic theologian said that “The most satisfying and final word on the matter is that marriage is a form of slavery. The woman is man’s slave and her duty therefore is absolute obedience to the husband in all that he asks of her person.”
Dr. Nawal Sa’dawi is a Muslim woman who has rebelled against her own religion and its oppression of women. She has written that it is not possible to talk about rights of women, “…since a woman under the Islamic system of marriage has no human rights unless we consider that a slave has rights under a slavery system. Marriage, in so far as women are concerned, is just like slavery to the slave, or the chains of serfdom to the serf.” Marriage is a kind of slavery, for the wife becomes the slave of her husband, and it is her duty absolutely to obey him in everything he requires of her…”
Prophet Mohammed himself stated, “We have not been left any calamity more detrimental to mankind than woman.” Islam is a religion for men alone – both in the present and in the future when men reach paradise. The Koran states that a man may have four wives plus as many concubines as he can afford. A woman may have one husband, and generally only the man can divorce.
The great philosopher and spiritualist, P.R. Sarkar, has written:
If you analyse human history in all its aspects in a new way, in a new light, you will find that attempts were made to exploit others by injecting a fear complex in their minds…. What a nasty psychology it was to inject the fear complex in people’s mind in the name of God! And here lies the difference between religion and dharma. You will find that everywhere in religion, the fear complex has been created in human minds. For women so many rigid rules and regulations were framed so that they would respect men and stand before them in awe with folded hands. But for men, there are no such rules and regulations. For example, (Hindu) women were forbidden to take the names of their husbands, and the husband’s elder brothers. For what reason? To make women exceedingly reverential towards their menfolk. How can it be justified that a virtuous lady, with the border of her sari wrapped around her neck, should have to lie in prostration before her immoral husband? This is absurd, meaningless!”
We stated that truly Islam is anti-woman. Can we say something different for Hinduisim? No, we cannot. It is even worse! The statement is based upon facts – reams of facts. The facts are the horrific stories of suffering taking place in India even today. Sometimes it is suffering in silence. Sometimes it is with
Young Hindu girls when given in marriage could be abandoned at will. Quoting from Manu Smrti IX.72: “Though a man may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may abandon her if she be blemished, diseased or deflowered, and (if she have been) given with fraud.” Such girls, thrown out by their husbands, led a pitiable life as outcastes of society. Yet Brahmin men were free to engage in debauchery with devadasis any time they wanted! Subscribing to Hinduism means being a “mindless male supremacist pig”!
According to Manu, the great Hindu law-maker, “If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or (her own) excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.” It was Brahmins who destroyed the dignity of women by (1) forcefully confiscating a woman’s property, (2) enforcing the dowry system, (3) locking women in the home, and (4) denying their women education and keeping them in a state of enforced illiteracy.
In the Rig Veda (10-95-10), it states, “The friendship of women does not last long. Their nature is like that of the hyena.” Manu characterizes women as loving ornaments, having impure desires, being full of wrath, dishonesty, malice and bad conduct. (Manu.9.17). In the Atharva Veda one verse states that “a wife is given by God to a husband to serve him and to bear him children. Further she is referred to by her husband as his subordinate and slave.” (Atharva Veda 14.01.52). Hinduism is the only religion where women are considered as innately promiscuous. The Puranas state that “…as a butcher is not satisfied with the slaughter of any number of animals, similarly women will not be satisfied with any number of men.” Hindu literature truly pours hatred on women, calling them thieves, dacoits, pirates, thirsty tigresses and hypocrite cats. In one scripture it states, “The following eight qualities are characteristic qualities of women. They are: uttering lies, unsteadiness, deceit, stupidity, greed, impurity, wickedness and rashness.” (Sukra 3-163).
In the Mahabharata , (Anusasana Parava, Section XXXVIII), the great Indian religious epic, there is an entire chapter in which an Apsara talks in detail about the character of women and says how they are the root of all problems and how they are always looking for another man, no matter how good their husband may be. How, because of this, a woman never deserves to be independent – as she can never be trusted! We can still read these lines in many places in India:
“The husband is the highest guru,
Service to the husband is the highest service
“A handful of unprincipled, power-hungry men propagated these doctrines in order to paralyze women’s reasoning, and to inflate men’s vanity!” Even modern Hindu swamis still propagate these doctrines. These swamis will tell the husband to be detached from his devoted wife because she is an illusion, but will tell the wife to serve the husband as a god. Swami Shivananda states: “To a woman there is no greater yoga, sacrifice or act than the service of her husband. She who worships him in thought, word and deed is adored by all the gods…even if he is easily irritated and mean, the wife should serve him whole-heartedly…even if he taunts and hates her she should speak sweetly and gently to him. She should never show her anger towards him. If she ill-treats him, she goes to the unhappy world. ” Truly, the mind is numbed by the sheer ocean of outrages perpetuated by Hinduism against women!
It is very difficult for a woman suffering from an inferiority complex, which is a psychic ailment, to approach the Supreme Entity. She is bound to think, “I am low-born. I am a woman. I have no rights. How can I go close to the Supreme Entity?
This will not only harm women or a neglected and downtrodden segment of humanity, but will cause a serious carbuncle to grow on the vast body of society. That carbuncle will be so poisonous and infectious that it will infect the entire society.
One can find supremely beautiful words in the scriptures of all religions. We can also find extremely oppressive, even horrifying words about women in those same scriptures.
Any religion can be compared to the attic of an old home. Unless the attic is regularly cleaned, it gathers dust and cobwebs and eventually becomes unusable. Similarly, if a religion cannot be updated or cleaned from time to time, it loses its usefulness and cannot relate anymore to changed times and people
We all appreciate in others the inner qualities of kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and generosity, and in the same way we are all averse to displays of greed, malice, hatred and bigotry. So, actively promoting the positive inner qualities of the human heart that arise from our core disposition toward compassion and learning to combat our more destructive propensities will be appreciated by all. And the first beneficiaries of such a strengthening of our inner values will, no doubt, be ourselves. Our inner lives are something we ignore at our own peril, and many of the greatest problems we face in today’s world are the result of such neglect.