Religion is a woman’s biggest foe
By Prabalta Rijal
As long as there is religion, violence against women will continue as throughout history religion has been used as a tool to serve our male dominated societies. I’m tired of Christians preaching Christianity to me, tired of Hindus telling me that only god can save my soul, tired of the Muslims telling me that only the Koran is the ultimate truth and the path that leads to God. I am tired of Religion because in my view it is the root of all evil, and I mean it!
Religion has divided us as people and throughout history it has been the root cause of gender based violence against women. For centuries religion has been used as weapon to fight wars to moblise general masses in believing in that women are not as worthy as men, it has turned women against women. The Bible was altered to suit the Romans and Roman politics, Vedic rituals were twisted to suit the men and divide society in classes and the Islamic values were manipulated to degrade women.
Maybe you wont believe me when I say that religion has always been used as a weapon to suit the men. So, lets look at things in a practical manner, starting with the fact that according to the Bible women were the reason we were thrown out of Eden, because Eve gave into temptation and ate the forbidden fruit. As a student of religious education who grew up in a Christian society I can safely say, I don’t think Christ disliked women or thought of them as unworthy beings. But were women disregarded by Christ, did he think them as not worthy of the kingdom of heaven or has his views on women been twisted to serve the interests of power-thirsty men?
Though Christian scriptures do suggest that Christ considered women to be unworthy beings, for example, in the Gospel of Thomas in the non-canonical Gospel states: Simon Peter said to them, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (section 114), I still find it difficult to believe that this is God’s desire! When we go over the Bible we need to understand the fact that the World‘s largest selling book was not written during the life of Christ or by Christ and was written in an expanse of 300 years. So, can we really trust these verses as the words of Christ and not some Power-thirsty-men, who wanted to use and manipulate religion to suit their interests?
Furthermore, when we look at what the new testament has to say on women we find its even more shocking: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God…. any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head …For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair …For a man ought not to cover his head; since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.)” 1 Corinthians 11:2-10.
This clearly suggests that according to Christ, women were made to be used by men, but was this how Jesus felt or was he someone who respected women? In my personal view is, Jesus did not differentiate between men or women, despite such suggestions being made, his closest disciple was Mary Magdalene, even though most of his male disciples were offended by her presence he still showed her a lot of affection, in fact she was the first person to find Christ’s tomb empty and inform everyone about the resurrection. If he thought of women as just toys created to be used by men, why was she the closest to him among all his disciples? Why was she seated next to him in the final supper? I will leave you to think about these, In my view I think Christ had a lot of value for women and for human life in general but his teachings were manipulated and distorted to fit the male dominated society we live in.
The condition of women in Muslim communities is no better as in Islam too, the Koran explicitly makes it clear that women are spiritually,morally,physically and intellectually more inferior to men. Though the Muslim World claims that not a word in the Koran has been changed or distorted from the time it was written, how can any religion claim such things? Difficult to believe, yep I thought so too, so I sat down with a translated version of the Koran only to find versus that degraded the woman kind just as the similar to the ones in the Bible , take this Hadith for example: “It is a noble sacrifice for a man to share his life with the woman….she being deficient in mind, religion and gratitude. It is condescension on the part of the man to spend his life with her. She cannot repay this favour, no matter what sacrifice she makes.”
Another Hadith in the Koran states that The Prophet Mohammad would have sexual relations with all his wives in one night and at that point he had nine wives. Infact an Islamic theologian Ahmed Zaky Tufahha, once quoted the following Hadith: “If a woman offered one of her breasts to be cooked and the other to be roasted, she still will fall short of fulfilling her obligations to her husband. And besides that if she disobeys her husband even for a twinkling of an eye, she would be thrown in the lowest part of Hell, except she repents and turns back-– to show how bias Islam was against women and how it openly allowed violence against women.
Women in the Muslim World,even today are still subjected to violence and rapes because their religion doesn’t protect them it just makes them more vulnerable to sex thirsty men. As their religion allows men to quench their sexual desires by legally marrying four wives, but it does not allow women to exercise the same practice and they are made to share one man!
Hinduism is no better, this is another religion that has been twisted and manipulated to suit the men. We are talking about a religion where the Goddess of wealth is subjected to a spot near her husband’s feet and is shown massaging his feet as he rests. Though Hinduism portrays Women as the goddesses of power, intelligence and wealth, in reality these goddesses too play the role of a wife who abides to all her husband’s wishes. We are talking about a religion where scriptures like the ‘Garud Puran’, make women sound like untouchable beings. If we look at the Rig Veda 8:33:17 it says that Indra himself said, “ The mind of woman brooks no discipline, her intellect hath little weight.”
In fact a section in the Mahabharata (Anusasana Parava, Section XXXVIII), “The husband is the be-all and end-all of life, verily, the husband is god;The husband is greater than heaven, The husband is the ruler of destiny.”
Such things do not only appear in the Rig Veda and the Mahabharat but also appear in upanishads. Manu, who is considered to be a great King and lawmaker in the Hindu mythology has been quoted as saying that slaying women is a minor offence. Manu 11:67, “ stealing grain ,base metals, or cattle,intercourse with women who drink spirituous liquor,slaying women,sudra,Vaisyas,or Kshatriyas and atheism, (are all) minor offences, causing loss of caste (Upataka).
Back in the days,Hindu women were made to sit on their husband’s pyre and were cremated alive with their dead partners. When this practice was abolished widows were made to live their entire lives without remarrying, because it is believed that they would reunite with their husband after death. This rule however never applied to the men!
In countries like India and Nepal where Hinduism is widely practiced women are still ill treated, this too because, Hindu scriptures have been manipulated to maintain male dominance in society. In fact the case of violence against Hindu women is far more horrific than in any other religion, a woman needs to fast without food or water for an entire day for her husband’s immortality; she is subjected to violence and is burnt alive by her husband’s family in dowry related cases. Girls aren’t allowed to go to school and even today if there are problems at home the daughter will be asked to stop going to school while her brothers are allowed to pursue their studies.
When a girl has her menses she is treated like an untouchable and is not allowed to eat or sit with other members of her family,she is not allowed to cook or enter the kitchen, she isnt allowed to enter the prayer room or pray,this is especially very common in Brahmin and Chhetri communities in Nepal. Even today women in Nepal are accused of being witches they are beaten, insulted,people even defecate on them make them forcefully eat shit, before beating and kicking them out of the area. Though times have changed women are still treated like they used to be centuries ago. All, because, over the centuries our mindset has been heavily clouded by religious customs that were brought into practice for one sole reason, TO MAINTAIN A MALE DOMINATED SOCIETY!
Ancient religions practiced in Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as in the Indus Valley gave a lot of priority to women and they believed that women were the bearers of life, however, with time because women were not as physically strong as men they were transformed into subjects. Though, there are historical evidences that point towards gender equality in the ancient times, for hundreds of years women have been made to believe that they are supposedly inferior to their male counterparts. Religion has made women subjected to men. We are made to think that we are inferior than men all because of religious scriptures and the customs and traditions that spring from it. Religion is not the work of God it is the work of power hungry men who wanted to exercise their power over women and maintain a patriarchal society. God made man, but man-made Religion, religious customs, cultures and traditions.
So, whether you like it or not religion isn’t our friend it is our biggest foe and it has enslaved us for centuries!
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