Because Your Husband is Your Supreme God!
by Rita Banerji
Today all over India, married Hindu women merrily starve themselves of food and water, from sunrise to sunset, to ensure that the gods will give their husbands a long and healthy life. At sun-down the women view the moon through a kitchen sieve before they break their fast. This is the festival of Karva Chauth.
And here’s the reason behind this festival in a nutshell:
A married woman is called Sumangala [The fortunate one; the bringer of good luck].
A widow is called Amangala [the unfortunate one; the bringer of bad luck].
In fact the widow is considered such bad luck that she’s shunned from wedding and other ceremonies, barred from certain temples and places, just in case her ‘bad luck’ rubs off on other people. Till a few years ago, the families would just do away with this ‘bad luck’ by burning her alive on her dead husband’s funeral pyre – a custom called sati. There still are occasional incidents of ‘sati.’ But by and large, the families just throw the widows out onto the streets after usurping their property. There are two towns in central India where more than 40,000 such widows live in conditions of absolute poverty![for more click here]
Yet what perhaps is more amazing is the great excitement with which women – even modern, educated, professional women, continue to embrace this festival! In fact it is like a fashion statement among the high profile celebrities with Bollywood actors sending out wishes on social media!
India’s modern, gizmo crazy market is happily marketing this misogyny. There’s a new application for smart phones that busy, professional women can use in place of a sieve if kitchen-ware is not handy in their executive offices during office hours!
The businesses also realize they can bring in more sexist revenue by expanding their customer base. Since girls watching their mothers starve for their fathers think it is such a fun and attractive tradition, why don’t they just start early? Like this article suggests “A lot of girls fasting for their boyfriends will be switching to the app – it’s easier to tell your mom you’re clicking the moon than saying you were fasting for your next-door neighbour boyfriend.”
Yet, there are no issues with being a widower. His family immediately gets busy finding another bride for him. There are also no issues with brides being abused, tortured and killed in the thousands for dowry.
Where lies the root of this misogyny?
I believe in the heart of the Hindu religion. There is no other religion on earth, that puts a man at par with god! A Hindu woman is told by her religion: “Your husband is Parmeshar [the Supreme God.]”
The Hindu scriptures known as the ‘Laws of Manu’ have this advice for women:
A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in her own house. In childhood a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth under her husband’s, and when her husband is dead, under her sons’. She should not have independence. A woman should not try to separate herself from her father, her husband, or her sons, for her separation from them would make both her own and her husband’s families contemptible. She should always be cheerful, and clever at household affairs; she should keep her utensils well polished and not have too free a hand in spending. When her father, or her brother with her father’s permission, gives her to someone [in marriage], she should obey that man while he is alive and not violate her vow to him [even] when he is dead. A virtuous wife should constantly serve her husband like a god, even if he behaves badly, freely indulges his lust, and is devoid of any good qualities […] It is because a wife obeys her husband that she is exalted in heaven.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder ofThe 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website iswww.ritabanerji.com She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at@Rita_Banerji
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: This photo is by Lady Tetsu who is a supporting member of The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s Photographers Group on Flickr which is supported by more than 2400 photographers from around the world. To see more of each of her works, please click here.