Gender Discrimination: Society, Religion, and Manhood
Human society, regardless of modern of primitive, always remained male dominated where women had secondary or even less stature. Why human society was male dominated? As per women psyche, woman wanted to be caressed, loved, and protected, thus, majority of women believed that men were strong, brave, and more intelligent that women, therefore, men had ample capacities to entertain women needs. The very self-surrendering attitude then propelled women to secondary place whilst directly creating a male dominated society. Many men do not marry a woman who was much educated than a man or was older than him, since both things challenged manhood (not biological one but mental one i.e. I am the man, therefore, I rule, I prevail, I am superior, and I needed to marry a younger female).
In addition, every religion was introduced by a male i.e. Vishnu, Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Ahmed….and as a result male dominated society was born. Why religion wasn’t introduced by a woman, does it mean that God’s gender was male and He wanted to keep male domination—does it mean that woman weren’t capable enough to lead alike man—does it mean that God wanted male dominated society—does it mean that introduction of religion by man was an effort to limitise woman to just a commodity or secondary and unimportant object—or does it mean that male from primitive times wanted to dominate and prevail that denoted his psyche and inferiority complex. If woman had introduced some religion, then it could have created female dominated society that could have challenged manhood.
Furthermore, advent of religion played a very impressive role in establishing male domination that resulted into gender discrimination, which treated women as commodity rather than a sensitive (having feelings, emotions, thoughts) biological living being. As per Islamic beliefs, in heaven, a man will get 72 heaven girls, including his worldly wife or wives. On contrary, such promise did not exist in Islam for women. Moving ahead, according to Jewish folklores, Lillith, the first wife of Adam, turned into a demon on God’s curse as she disobeyed Adam, thus, through the story of Lillith, women were enslaved by the concept that obey husband (no matter what) or be prepare for dire consequences. Indian women called their husbands “pati” that meant owner, for example “lakh pati” someone who possessed 100,000 India rupee. Now even if there was some Hindu goddess, then she used word “pati dev” for her husband. The concept that husband is owner of wife or wife is a personal property of husband also contributed in gender discrimination.
The Manusmriti, also known as Manav Dharam Shastra, is the earliest metrical work on Brahminical Dharma in Hinduism. According to Hindu mythology, the Manusmriti is the word of Brahma, god of creation and member of Trimurti alongside Vishnu and Shiva, and it is classified as the most authoritative statement on Dharma, right way of living. The very word of Brahma egged immense gender discrimination among Hindus, for example
“It is the nature of women to seduce men in this (world); for that reason the wise are never unguarded in (the company of) females. For women are able to lead astray in (this) world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and (to make) him a slave of desire and anger.” Manusmriti: 2.213- 214
“He who is famous for (the strict performance of) his duties and has received his heritage, the Veda, from his father, shall be honoured, sitting on a couch and adorned with a garland, with (the present of) a cow (and the honey-mixture).” Manusmriti: 3.3
Now Manusmriti in its chapter: 3. 8-12 & 14-15 & 17-18 would dictate, whom a “famous man” must marry,
- A women with reddish hair, redundant parts of the body [such as six fingers], who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair, and one who has red eyes must not be married.
- A woman with having name of trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves etc must not be married.
- A woman without brother or without having good social stature must not be married.
- A beautiful woman with good name, soft limbs and small teeth could only be married.
- Brahman can marry Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaish and even Shudra women but Shudra men can marry only Shudra women. In addition, if a Brahman will marry a Shudra woman then he will degrade hisself by losing his Brahman-hood and he will go to hell.
Manusmriti goes on about women whilst not making them merely a commodity but also declaring them as abhorring as dog, pig etc, for example
“Food offered and served to Brahman after Shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal, a pig, a cock, a dog, and a menstruating woman.” Manusmriti: 3. 240
“A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl eight years of age” Manusmriti: 9.94
Other derogatory passages against women could also be found in Manusmriti 4.43-44, 4.217, 5.150-151 & 157-158 & 160 & 167, 8.364-365 & 369-370, 9.3 & 6 & 8 & 13 & 15 & 18 & 58 & 60 & 70 & 77 & 80 & 177
Furthermore, Hindu widow faced great discrimination in Indian society where she was forced to wear white saree, she cann’t wear colourful dresses or jewelry, her presence in religious ceremony was considered inauspicious even she wasn’t welcomed in parties, she wasn’t allowed to remarry, higher caste Hindu widow was supposed to dedicate the rest of her life for religion and hence her head was shaved. In addition, Sati ritual existed in Hindu society where widow was burnt along with her dead husband on his funeral pyre.
Apart from paganism, gender discrimination was also borrowed from Abrahamic religions for example,
“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard.” Quran: 4.34
“In my opinion it is right for a woman not to be a teacher, or to have rule over a man, but she must be silent. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; And Adam was not taken by deceit, but the woman, being tricked, became a wrongdoer.” 1 Timothy 2:12-14
An Argentinean catholic woman, Jacqui Lisbona, was banned from getting married in a local church as she wanted to marry a divorced man; furthermore, the local pope told her that she is living in sin . Later, Pope Francis told her that nothing was wrong in taking Holy Communion. Hindus believe that a widow cannot be married since she has transformed into a curse or she is not less than an evil, but Catholic Church wasn’t different from such kinds of irrationalities too as a couple could not get married in church since woman wanted to marry a divorced man, how ridiculous it is? If religion was to ease up things, then why it had made things too complicated especially in regard of gender discrimination? But gender discrimination does not involve only religion since our society is also responsible for the very evil e.g. the US Senator Elizabeth Warren had publicly admitted that women are treated differently than men in Washington . Thus, neither religion nor third-world was responsible alone over the issue of discriminative attitude towards women because it also involved our society as well. In conclusion it can be said that man is man no matter which region he belonged or a woman is woman regardless which world she dwelled in. Men and women were actually equal in discipline of human beings, therefore, there must not exist any gender discrimination. As every man is not as talented as other man, similarly, man and woman can vary in their talents but having less or much talent does not make someone secondary or superior as a living being.
Writer: Shahid Mehmood Khan
1: Pope Francis ‘tells sinner she should be allowed Communion’. The Telegraph, 23 Apr 2014.
2: Elizabeth Warren On Whether Women Are Treated Differently Than Men In Washington: ‘Yep.’ Huffington Post, 23 Apr 2014.
Note: Al-Rasub is not responsible for writer personal opinion