[October 26, 2008] There is a misunderstanding that women were suppressed in Hinduism without independence. People quote Manu Smruti in this context, which says that woman should not be independent (Na stree svatantryamarhati...). But, the same Manu says that women should be worshipped to please God (Yatranaryastu pujyante ramante tatra devatah...). Both these contradict each other. If you are not giving even basic independence to somebody, how can you worship him or her? Will you worship a person without independence, put in prison? This means that the first statement of Manu is misinterpreted. The actual meaning of first statement is that women should not move independently without escort because she is weak in physical constitution to fight against anyone attacking her.
Moreover, women are always associated with golden ornaments and there is every probability of attack on her by thieves. Therefore, she needs protection and hence, Manu said that the women must be accompanied by her father in childhood, by her husband in youth and by her son in old age. Here, the independence means not move alone. It does not mean suppression of women leading to their slavery to men. In Hinduism, the misinterpretations are many because Indians are always over-intelligent. In the middle age, the selfish intellectuals were many with several misinterpretations.
Apart from this, the sense of a word changes in course of time. In 16th century, Shakespeare wrote "Life is a tale told by idiot". In that time the word idiot means a person with extraordinary intelligence. But, today the same word means a fool without even normal intelligence! If the word changed like this in 400 years, what would have been the change of a word after millions of years passed after Manu! Therefore, the word 'independence' (Nasvatantryam...) meant not to go alone according to Manu and today, the same word means not to have any freedom in any aspect of life. Some men in the middle age were egoistic and selfish to use such opportunity of change of sense of a word to misuse the ancient traditions of the Vedic sages. The Vedic sages never misused any sense and were for the equal status of women and in fact gave higher status for women.
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