Kaitlynn Moquet is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Communication Arts and Psychology.
Like I always do, I responded to my unquiet mind by thinking, scouring the net, and thinking some more. Did women have ‘fewer’ rights than men or ‘different’ in the context of Hinduism’s history? A Globe and Mail opinion piece discusses the reduction in church attendance among Canadian women and whether oppression of women by religious institutions is the main cause, while Tina disagrees in her blog post. How does Canadian society achieve gender equality rights enshrined in their Charter, which also protects the right to freedom of religion? In the above list, I have not listed any pro-atheist source, and strived to include Hinduism related articles. Third, for a religion that has existed for centuries, and is said to be flexible and evolving, it is impossible to differentiate religious practices from social customs and traditions.
However, there still exists a strong correlation between the extent of ‘organic atheism’ (as opposed to ‘coerced atheism’ like in communist countries) in a country and its overall gender equation. It is impossible to argue against faith and belief, so I do not venture much into such debates.
This entry was posted in culture, India, philosophy, religion, society, women and tagged atheism, culture, feminism, gender equality, hindu, hinduism, India, religion, society, women. I have been reading Octavio Paz’s ‘In Light of India’ and he says religions like Hinduism and Islam are petrified. Call it my affliction with the “knight-in-shining-armor” syndrome :), but I suspect the stockholm syndrome is active in most cases where you see a woman seemingly endorsing subservience to men. I think its almost impossible to know from Hindu scriptures since most, if not all, of them have been passed orally.
Also, in a progressive state, it is quite possible to go beyond religious beliefs in order to set things right. While Religion may be man made, and partial towards men, Perhaps the security it provides women compensates for the inequality it cages them in, and before long the bird in its cage cannot survive beyond its confines. I somehow don’t understand the concept of holding on to something for the heck of it without understanding the reasons.
A few days back I was telling a Brit colleague about the concept of “no meat eating” policy of some Hindus on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the Gods might get angry.
He was amused and asked – Is it the same set of Gods who get angry on different days or is it two different Gods for the two days? Savitri won her husband back from Yama by her intelligence and wit but we are made to believe that it was the power of her satitva that defeated Yama.
Mahendra, congratulations for writing such a painstakingly researched post on this complex and also relevant topic.
The main theme seems to be (and I say this because you seem to be zeroing in on it in your responses to comments) that religion is an obstacle to progress, in general terms, and in specific terms, it inhibits the evolution of an egalitarian society in terms of gender equality. We live in a new world – a world in which there is already a critical mass of empowered women to initiate and lead reforms in the societies where they are necessary, and also a critical mass of men who would express solidarity and support such moves. That came from a quote by Thoreau – “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” … good advice to aspiring revolutionaries!
I don’t think ‘Green’ was an issue as such (either pro- or anti-) with any of the world religions, but if you look at the crux of the philosophy underlying ‘Green’ thinking, it is a fundamental shift from the (in some cases implicit) premise which most religions are based on: that Man is a special creature in a class by himself – more equal than all other forms of life, and hence has the power to do pretty much as he pleases. The answer, I believe, is in your blog itself: the line between religious and social traditions is very thin, and you cannot really cross one, without crossing the other, many a times. Yeah religion is very contradictory and provides a lot of opportunity for discrimination but it doesn’t mean you should stay atheist. Ranging in age, race and sexual orientation, all see love as a basic human right that no one should be denied.


She loves to travel and is a major foodie who is willing to go the distance to find the next best restaurant. Neither the service provider nor the domain owner maintain any relationship with the advertisers. A heated debate ensued after Hindus started a campaign to change the content of sixth-grade school history textbooks in California.
Alarmed at the extent of oppression of women in their country, a group of Islamic and Christian leaders have released new manuscripts in an effort to use religion to achieve gender equality. Referencing articles on Hinduism and gender equality or feminism is difficult for three reasons. While all religions are intentionally scripted so as to offer multiple contradictory interpretations, Hinduism wins this ambiguity race by claiming to be ‘all-inclusive’.
Religion has been used as an instrument of gender inequality, specifically, in the oppression of women. Both the 2004 and 2006 rankings of the Gender Empowerment Measure, which is part of the the UNDP’s Human Development Report, show that the top ten nations with the highest gender equality are all strongly organic atheistic nations, while the bottom ten are all highly religious countries with insignificant number of atheists. I prefer not challenging other people’s beliefs as long as they do not interfere with my life. Cherie Booth, wife of ex-PM Tony Blair, gave a speech almost two years ago: Religion no excuse for gender inequality.
An excellent piece in The Observer that asks the exact same questions I did, and offers the exact same answer Rational Fool did in the comments – Stockholm Syndrome. Certainly, a lot of bad has come from religion – but then same could be said about science too ?? ! Not for a moment that I believe that coercion, years of child abuse, deprivation, and threats of being roasted in hell, have nothing to do with this “choice” – please read my post on Women in Hell and A Letter to My Sister. To begin with, I expect the secular democratic states to legislate against forced marriage, marital rape, forced full-term pregnancy, forced female genital mutilation, forced female foeticide and infanticide, forced illiteracy, forced widowhood, forced whatever. Interesting post, as I commented to you on twitter, when you first wrote it (I had promised to read it in detail at leisure, if you recall). Further, that women in key positions should initiate reforms aimed at breaking away from the paradigm of religion, which keeps them subjugated and promote a secular, if not atheistic, mindset in which the idea of equality can bear fruit and manifest itself in day-to-day living. I’d just like to add that along with religion, there’s this whole bunch of socio-cultural beliefs, customs, traditions, practices, rituals, superstitions etc., a lot of which form the ‘tools of oppression’ if you like (most of them designed by chauvinists for that very purpose) and therefore need to be phased out. This is very different from the old world, where such reforms necessarily had to be brought about by enlightened men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jyotiba Phule et al.
There are plenty of other religions out there that don’t discriminate such as paganism, buddhism etc.
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One example of a response to this debate is by Sally, who says that faith is an integral part of her, and suggests women work within their faiths for change.
One, the global discussion has centered on Islam, and the English-speaking Internet population is largely Christian.
Devout religious folks from other religions do argue (as seen in the above examples) that the oppression of women is a misinterpretation and misuse of their ‘true’ religion.
Widow burning or sati is widely described in the world as a Hindu practice, but naturally, there are arguments and differing opinions about it.
Removing religion from the picture removes religious and theological justifications for patriarchy, as Austin argues. But, as Phil Zuckerman points out in the The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, the causal relationship is in reverse: overall societal health causes widespread atheism, not the other way around. What I find perplexing is how even emancipated women prefer to remain within their religious faiths and struggle against oppression, rather than choosing to discard religion?


Men should not trample over that right, though they can trample over such women, if they wish. Like many other ‘feminists’ I mentioned, she however suggests using religion as a weapon in the fight for women’s rights.
In fact, perhaps anything man made (i include religion too), there is always bad and there is good – the extremes being more prominent when he gets passionate about it.
And then, speak up against other social institutions that deny anyone the natural right to live their lives as they’d like. A message is whispered from one person to the next and what the last person hears is nowhere close to the original or intended message. So who cares what religion says, or what we think it says, we should be able to bring gender equality anyway.
Swayamvara was the right given to the girl to choose a husband of her choice but the terms and conditions were set by the father. And religion is shaped by humans and not God, just because humans have misinterpreted it doesn’t mean you should stop believing in a higher power. Nita asked if Hinduism was coming of age, with people performing the sacred ‘thread ceremony’ on their daughters.
But Hindus can’t be surpassed in this respect: not only are there multiple contradictory interpretations of Hinduism, even these contradictions can be claimed to be embraced by it.
Sally says that in the absence of religion, men will find other ways to oppress women, hence religion as such is not an obstacle. The footer (which is absent here) is usually a good space for miscellaneous stuff esp if its overflowing the sidebars. Indra lived happily while the poor woman had to wait for centuries so that Rama could come and bring her back to life. So in that sense I agree with your second point as well, that women need to take the lead in bring about these reforms. I think it would be a safe bet to say that for every principle supposedly propounded by Hinduism, a contradictory principle can be found within Hinduism. Indeed, many factors contribute to gender inequality, one of them being economic prosperity, as this chart shows. For example one woman might think that eating after her husband is not oppressive but someone else might think it is. I sometimes think religious people paint non-religious ideas in black and white (you dont follow this, you are morally corrupt, you go to hell etc.), and in the same vein atheists have a tendency to paint religion in black and white (religion has given us only bad). Laxman had no problems in leaving his wife Urmila alone for 14 years because he had to serve his brother. And Sarkozy said that women wearing burqas were not welcome in France, as it was more a sign of women’s subservience rather than religion.
People would not call me a mathematician if I did not follow mathematics, but they will call me a Hindu even if I did not follow it. The Rational Fool hailed Sarkozy’s statement, while I and Etlamatey pondered about individual women’s rights in the comments. The superiority of men is so well ingrained that thinking of oneself as an equal is impossible. Mahabharat is full of stories which prove that women had fewer rights than men in those times. For example there are many women who feels that it is her body which is sinful and needs to be hidden from men.



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