On Women in Hinduism

Smita Poudel has written an article in ohmynews on women in Hindu religion. The subtitle says ‘Hindu women suffer largely because of religious dogma.’ The article portrays the struggle of an average Hindu woman in true spirit but sadly ignores the emerging Hindu women and does not mention anything on how to solve the problems.

She writes

The term "impurity" is synonymous with female. Women are impure several times during menstruation and even after childbirth.

Yep, I remember my mother going through this around 20 years ago but not anymore. Things are rapidly changing and I don’t think most modern day Hindu couples stay apart during menstruation period. There are many Hindu women in modern day world who have come out of the tradition and made a name for themselves and are rubbing shoulders with men.

Having said that the number of Hindu couples indulging in female feticide is on the rise. But she does not mention anything about this gruesome aspect which is influenced by religion.

The article also indicates that

“Hinduism worships the goddess with utmost respect. It is even claimed that Hinduism has the longest, continuous history of goddess worship. But this triumph of the divine feminine has caused no notable difference for suffering women.” She also criticizes women fasting for good husband and for the well being of the husband.

To illustrate her point she quotes the story of Sita. Then delves into the Shakti worship and the Ardhanareshwara half-male and half-female concept.

She sums up with the usual comment that interpretation of religious texts has been the domain of men. She wonders “Who knows if the goddess Lakshmi sits at the feet of lord Vishnu. Whoever drew the sketch must have been a male.” To liberate women she calls for the re-interpretation of religious texts.

It is true that whoever interpreted the religious texts have never been kind to women. The use of ‘Him’, ‘His’ to represent the Supreme Lord is seen in majority of the religious texts. Several phrases have been used against women in these texts. But there is no point in sitting and brooding over this. We need to look how the condition of women can be improved.

Every living being has the right to respectful existence and when it is challenged he/she should stand up to it. To expect someone else to stand for you is foolish. To have a respectful existence in the modern day world, one needs to be educated. Perhaps what majority of Hindu women lack today is good education. Education should not be mere mugging of text books to pass examinations. Instead it should teach each woman the value of freedom and respect. Therefore education should also happen outside the classroom.

Whether you are male or female, you are always the product of your thoughts. If you suffer, it is due to your ignorance.