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Rights Of Women As Per Apastamba Dharma Sutra In Hinduism

Apastamba Dharma Sutra in Hinduism is a work on the subject of dharma and it details about the role and rights of women. Apastamba was a renowned Sanskrit writer on Dharmashastra. His work, Apastamba Dharmasutra, forms a part of the ritual exposition known collectively as Kalpasutra, which include Srauta Sutra (Vedic rituals), Grihyasutra (domestic rituals) and Dharmasutra (social, political and economic rules). Apastamba quotes, amongst his sources of dharma, customary practice as accepted by society and Vedas. Interestingly, he records at the end of his treatise that knowledge about women forms a part of the totality of knowledge about women forms a part fo the totality of knowledge of dharma and that one should learn from them dharmas which are not contained in his treatise (Apastamba Dharmasutra, II. 29.11-12, 15).

Though scholars called Apastamba puritanical, others opine that Apastamba’s views on sexual morality and women were innovative and radical. Abandoning one’s wife is not allowed (Apastamba Dharmasutra, I.28.19); daughters are allowed to inherit (Apastamba Dharma Sutra II.14.4). Since a couple is linked inextricably together, they have joint custody of property and there can be no division of property between them (Apastamba Dharmasutra, II.29.3). When the husband is away, a wife may give gifts and use the family wealth on her own (Apastamba Dharmasutra, II. 12-20). But Apastamba is opposed to levirate. He says that the married couple must possess an absolute identity in their aesthetic, material, and moral interests.

He advocates severe restrictions on brahmacharis such as meeting or talking to women. Apastamba says that a man should always serve the mother even if she loses caste. Both men and women who unjustly abandon their spouses deserve severe punishment. Pregnant women are to be treated with sensitivity. If a man marries a younger sister while her older sister remains unmarried, he must perform penance. If there is no son or proper family heir, the daughter can inherit and use it to perform rituals for the benefit of the deceased.

A true product of the age he lived in, Apastamba held progressive views regarding women.