Here’s Why Tarun Sagar’s Speech Is Plain Misogynistic And Patriarchal

Posted: September 1, 2016
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The recent speech by Tarun Sagar’s created quite a stir. Leaders need to be responsible, while delivering speeches, as their ideas have a huge impact on the society.

Tarun Sagar’s speech at the Haryana legislative assembly sparked off quite a debate across the nation, on and off social media. The religious leader spoke about a lot of things – ranging from female foeticide to Pakistan and offered a shockingly misogynistic analogy to describe the ideal case scenario between husband and wife. A disclaimer before I proceed: this article has no question or challenge to pose to the leader’s own choice of discarding clothing; the author recognizes and fully respects the tenets of the Digambar sect of Jainism. This article will relate solely to the views that the leader professed.

The monk suggested that a solution to female foeticide would be, to place a premium on those, who had daughters as a qualifier for their access to resources and opportunities. While it might seem like this is an interesting idea to suggest and possibly implement, there is a hidden danger lurking, as well. By according those with daughters, a greater value simply because they are fathers of daughters, there could be an exploitation of young girls.

This could result in a lot of damage: for instance, as the skewed sex ratio from female foeticide / infanticide has tended to encourage the trafficking of young women and girls to communities that have a shortfall of women, in the hope of marrying off their sons. Similarly, there could be a reverse trend of forcefully bringing boys up as girls – something that can happen very easily in a country where individuals are not so carefully documented. For the uninitiated, practices of bringing up a girl as a boy are rampant in Afghanistan (bachcha posh) and even parts of rural India – purely out of the fact that girls are not valued in society. With such resultant impacts, the consequences of such a policy can be counterproductive.

At its core, Jainism does not endorse inequality. It concerns itself with the three basic principles of thinking, speaking and acting rightly. Taken in this light, the leader’s comment on Pakistan, to me, seemed like a jarring dissonance to the ideas of Jainism. To call a nation one step worse than the devil – no matter what factual truths may be – doesn’t take you anywhere closer to peace. Constantly labeling and categorizing the other gives us no room to have an open dialogue, because a dialogue that begins with prejudice, bias and hatred is simply not open.

Finally, the bizarre analogy of women being politics, and men being dharma, and that women must be subservient to men, for politics is subservient to dharma, is plain misogynistic and patriarchal. What the monk professed is derivative of the ideas of the Digambar sect, as many conversations with Jains and some research suggested (the simple summary of all that I gathered was up here long before).

While Jainism as a whole doesn’t seem to suggest this, the Digambar sect, recognized as the more austere of the two sects in Jainism, perceives women as being inherently ‘himsic.’ (violent). The idea has its roots in the fact that Mahavira advocated total nudity in the hope of attaining liberation. The patriarchal interpretation in the Digambar sect suggests that women cannot be naked because it would rouse sexual desire in men, and that they themselves would feel ashamed, enough for their shame and intrinsic ‘himsic’ (violent) nature to hinder their path to liberation. This is a classic case of religious ideas being one, and the human intervention manifesting in the form of interpretation being another.

That these views are a subject of reasonable debate and discussion comes from the fact that a leader is one that a community of people looks up to, and a leader owes a care of responsibility to the community he leads by offering appropriate information and ideas. We need to pause for a moment to see exactly what impact one’s ideas can have on ground, and see if we are creating more harm than good, or endorsing harm rather than good.

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2 Comments


  1. Kasturi Patra

    Thought provoking and very well written! Thanks for the article.

  2. I really like that you have chosen to write about this issue in your post. It is important that we make a habit of reading between the lines, comprehending and explaining underlying messages often being conveyed in public spaces. You have written some very pertinent points very well, and we must open our eyes and deliberate on them. Furthermore I would like to add the following-most religious teachings are simple in their intent of using “the divine” to encourage compassion towards fellows of the same group (at the least) and still further, to the human species and other creatures too. Their main aim is making man’s survival viable on this earth and perhaps even pleasant. On the other hand, institutionalised religions (especially those with few recognised individuals who become its voice and face) focus on something else. Their main aim is to use “the divine” to gain authority, finance and power, to be “at the top” and enjoy dominance over ever increasing numbers of followers. (It is no secret -dominance is a selfish and very rewarding endeavour- for it offers unmatched security, comforts and conveniences!) Also remember that all of this plays out in a broader context of established patriarchy as well. The dominance of the patriarchy too must not be threatened for the status quo to continue- a latent conspiracy of understanding between these two gets fostered – that since neither (patriarchy nor religious heads)wants their dominance to be challenged or overthrown, they will help scratch each other’s backs whenever required to uphold the status quo so that they can continue enjoying the privileges of their respective dominance. Religion and the patriarchy thus mirror each other in what they preach and endorse. It is for those that are marginalised by the surreptitiousness of all this to wake up and see the truth!! We must demystify these messages that use the garb of “tradition” or “divinity” and expose inequality and marginalisation in any form of word or deed.

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