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Whether it is the recent agitation over women entering Sabarimala, or practices in every religion that favour men over women, it’s time to stop treating ‘tradition’ as something unchangeable.
“A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.“ – T.S. Eliot
There is a much heated debate in the Indian media after the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case of the Sabarimala and Shani shingnapur temples where the age old tradition to prohibit entry of women into these temples has been struck down by the court.
The judgment given by Supreme Court on September 28, 2018, paved the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala.
Articles 14, 15, 19 and 25 of the Constitution say that we cannot prevent women (or anyone based on gender or caste) from going to temples, mosques or churches as it is against their freedom of movement and freedom of religion. In Kerala however, we have seen a huge mass of women protest against this judgement, raising the question, if a majority of people themselves don’t want to change the tradition, then is there any use of law enforcement in this land?
This is not the only incident where in the name of tradition a certain gender/caste is being discriminated against. Take the example of priests in any temple – you rarely find a pujari who is not a Brahmin. Try to look at all manual scavengers – in spite of the fact there is a law which prohibits this dehumanising practice in India, it continues to be caste driven; you will not find any upper caste individual in this kind of labour.
There was a time where people were divided based on their skills and later it became custom to continue the same skill and it was called as caste based on the profession .but nowadays anyone can do any kind of work .
There are many such age old traditions that need to be addressed. One such tradition is to separate a girl from her family and send her to stay with the husband’s family. If she resists inspite of all obstacles that occur in her life because of the mental trauma and cruelty inflicted by many husbands and in-laws, as per a recent judgement in the supreme court, ”A Hindu son can divorce his wife for the cruelty of trying to keep him away from his “virtuous commitment” to live with his elderly parents and provide shelter to them.” Our supreme court has established a divorce to a man on the grounds of “cruelty” because his wife refused to accommodate in a home with her in-laws, effectively ruling that a married woman must live with her husband’s family.
What about the man who cannot tolerate his wife’s family for a single day? Just because it’s a tradition to separate a woman from her parental home, it becomes ‘cruelty’ and grounds for divorce for a man to be separated from his parents.
Women and people of all genders and castes have been taught that these traditions are made for their protection and that disobeying them may bring in tremendous misfortunes.
Karwa chauth is one such example which is glamourised today thanks to Ekta Kapoor and Bollywood. Here women keep a full day fast for the long lives of their husbands. Obviously the court cannot interfere in personal practices followed by women. We the women never question these traditions and rituals and take it easily in the name of parampara. This tradition is chauvinistic, regressive and misogynistic. Now this can not be stopped by making a law against it because it will go against the freedom of religious practice.
Yet another age-old wedding tradition is the Kanyadaan i.e. an act where you donate your daughter to her future husband/in-laws. It shows how we treat a woman like a commodity or object – you can donate only what you own, how is a father the owner of his daughter passing her on to her future owners? Moreover, the name of the ritual is kanyadaan which means that only a virgin (‘pure’) girl can be donated. If our government interferes and make a strict law to stop donating a human being, then our so called Hindutva will be in danger!
Until two decades before independence temples in India did not allow Dalits entry. Because of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi Dalits were given equal rights, but in every aspect of social life in every realm of society they still face discrimination. Even now in many parts of India Dalits are not invited for a feast or any auspicious occasion by Savarnas. Strict laws are there but Dalits continue to face serious discrimination. If you have a belief that those in cities don’t discriminate against Dalits, just look at your domestic worker, driver, waiter and all low paid workers – the majority will be Dalits. The recent suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad university is an eye opener for those who think discrimination against Dalits only happens in villages.
The religious books of Hinduism and Islam are also profoundly encumbered in favour of patriarchy. No doubt preachers will quote some verses from the Vedas or the Quran where some respect is given to women, but most holy books also consider men as superior and therefore authorised to control everything including women.
We can say that there are multiple reasons behind such discrimination in society but the strongest reason seems to be that people want to show themselves as superior and stronger so they can rule over the victims. Some people may say that these traditions keep them protected from external threats but no reason can justify discrimination. Illiteracy, poverty and slow development has also been a strong reason behind such rigid customs in our society.
There are very prolonged effects on people who are being given unfair treatment from their own people. Some of the consequences are anxiety, depression, insecurity and in some cases even leading to suicide. The consequences of discrimination are also slow economic development as well because a certain class of people are not contributing positively towards the well being of the nation and they are left behind with less access to resources and opportunities.
Our constitution has given enough rights to every human being irrespective of their race, religion, caste and gender but in the name of tradition and protection we are just exploiting our own people and leading to complete chaos in society.
“Discrimination is discrimination even when people call It tradition.” -Dashanne Stokes
Image courtesy The Quint video
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