Is religion responsible for the "inferiority" label of women !

Usually it is a womanıs prerogative to be their own defence. In modern times, particularly in certain quarters, women have burnt their bras and come out fighting for equal rights with men!

From the point of birth we, as human beings, have been conditioned to the faith our parents have been all along. Therefore, whether one likes it or not, one is not literally free, till one becomes independent and is able to think for oneself and Œliberateı oneself of parental celestial heritage. Religion , whatever the label one wears, has an impact or a persuasive effect on mankind. Religion, therefore, becomes a repository of all traditional thinking because it embodies a stereotype system peculiar to each faith, in which the quest for the ideal life becomes codified.

At this point of the argument, the liberated woman may pose the catch twenty two question - ŒCodified for whom ? Only for women ! and Why ? Is it for the convenience of men.ı...? Therefore, it is a sad fact, unfortunately, that in search of righteousness, truth and beauty, women have been given a raw deal for a long time.

But are they any more ? Today we see living examples of women at the top all over the world. Closer to home, take Sri Lanka for example, both the heads of the Government, The President and The Prime Minister are women. One has to look only a little beyond the Indian Ocean, at Bangladesh and Pakistan and the trend continues. Britain, for example was ruled for eleven years by the Iron fist of a famous woman, Margaret Thatcher. The speaker of the House of Commons in the UK is a woman and what more the ceremonial head of Britain, the monarch, is a Queen, and so is in Netherlands. British Civil Service emphasis more on women in their top management recruitment and a recent survey in the UK showed that women graduates who pass out of British Universities have better chances in finding a job straightaway than their male counterparts. And, ask any senior Raja Yogi, she will explain that according to the 5000 year cycle of the world, we are now in the Diamond Age, since 1939, and the Vedas have predicted this present era to be dominated by women till the Golden age dawns!

So much so for the achievement of woman, yet one look at the Church of England what did we see? When the synod approved the ordination of women priests, rejoicing took place in mass scale and womenıs rights campaigners were jubilant and felt that they achieved an immense victory after a centuries long battle, but some men and priests vowed to leave the Church and join the Catholic faith!

Women argue that it does not take any mental genius or gymnastics to make a woman pregnant and all it needs from a man is his sheer physical, primitive animal desire . From that point onwards, it is the Œ poorı woman, they say, who has to go through the mental and the physical agony of bearing and rearing of children.

Looking women at various religious view points, nothing else is so prominent like in the Hindu faith. The ancient scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, The Dharmashastras and the great epics have always been derogatory to a womanıs development as an individual.

If she has an individuality, it is made out to be villainous like that of Kaikeyeeıs or Shrupankhaıs. If she is submissive and subjugating like Seeta, she is hailed and praised and put on a pedestal. 32nd Verse in the ninth chapter, of The Bhagavad Gita, which is regarded as the ideal treatise of virtuous living, emphasises the fact that Œa female foetus is inferiorı. A womanıs birth is referred to as Œ papayoniı or inferior/imperfect birth. Some women critics maintain that the reason behind all this is very clear and these statements have been introduced into the scriptures by men to retain their superiority in the society. They claim that all the authors , from ŒVeda Vyasa to Manu and Ikshvakuı , have been men and not women and, it was only natural that men whose intentions have always been to subordinate women, have played Œthis dirty trick on womankindı.

In Christianity, they argue that God is assumed to be a male, although a true believer in God will not accept this notion but will accept that God can be referred to as either, ŒHeı, ŒSheı or ŒItı ! To conform the theory in Christianity that God is a man, women project their interpretation that Christian (menıs) version of the voice Moses supposed to have heard coming from the burning bush was a baritone - meaning a voice of a man ! It is also argued that Eve has been unnecessarily held responsible for Adamıs expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the fact is, Œ it was all because of a manıs (Adam) weakness for a woman. ŒIsnıt it a clever ployı ? they ask to describe Eveıs very existence as just a Œ derivativeı, a form grown out of manıs rib !

The modern woman argues that even today man conveniently blames the woman for impinging on his self-sufficiency and resists acknowledging their mutual need. Even when the man is not the provider in a modern society , the modern woman maintains that, man enjoys putting the blame purely on the woman whenever things start to go wrong, and such tortured thinking takes root, they maintain, Œfrom our religionsı !

Do men see their women only as their daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters-in law or as whores, concubines and illegal mistresses in hiding ? Women maintain, that Œ man is not prepared to accept the latter category in public because it is not convenient for himı!

When it comes to Asian man in particular, it is said that he is unable or unprepared to accept a woman as an independent, intelligent individual. A Hindu custom of placing importance on nudity in temple carvings is also being focused into the subject as another aspect of religion interfering with the daily life. Here the argument is based on the fact that while on one hand, the nude paintings are hailed and venerated in temple carvings & on the other hand, a number of women activists are fighting against obscenity in poster and hoardings. Here it tends to give rise to a complete confusion as one becoming lost as to where to draw the line ! For example, although much protests are staged against kissing in Hindi films, yet blind eyes are turned towards intricate carvings of men and women in Khajuraho and Konark; in fact they are being appreciated !

During funeral rights, Asian Hindu women are placed in a derogatory position in the name of religion. Daughters do not have the right of cremating their parents, never mind how much loving and caring they have been than their sons. Women are not allowed into the precincts of the crematorium either. Therefore, the modern Asian woman tends to ask man whether he thinks he could Œgain in importance and stature by relegating woman to the backgroundı.

Is whatever done in the name of religion accepted as right? The modern liberated woman makes no bones about it and says if the man can justify every thing he does in the name of religion and custom, then it is a tragedy that there is a thing called the Religion at all. Perhaps the controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen will endorse this.

Over 4000 years ago Aristotle said , " Woman made equal to man will always try to be the superior" but it is reasonable to assume the modern womanıs fight to freedom and equal status not because they are being made equal but perhaps so far down the line of history of mankind woman has been made unequal" !

" Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else...Stick to Facts, sir !" - Who said that?