Srushti Govilkar feature Editor at Youth connect, Writer and feminist
Manusmriti or ‘Laws of Manu’, also known as ‘ManavDharmashastra’ is the earliest traditional literature in Hinduism. According to the Hindu tradition, Manusmriti is a text which includes Lord Brahma’s wisdom. However, the text is contradictory in itself and there are numerous flaws when you take into consideration today’s contemporary society.
Clearly, this ancient Hindu text is not relevant to today’s society.
One of these flaws is the portrayal of women. Apart from these laws, there are various other laws about duties according to caste, and their relation to women. In spite of society being an apparently progressive one, there are many who continue to follow dogmatic traditions. A raped woman stripped off of her clothes, painted black, and paraded naked in the village on a donkey still makes news today.
Here is a list of translated verses regarding the nature and treatment of women in society, which will shock, surprise and mostly infuriate you:
1. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; which is why even the wise are cautious in the company of women.
2. Women, true to their character, are capable of leading men – a fool and a learned man alike – astray in this world. Both become slaves of desire.
3. Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.
4. One should not marry women with reddish hair, redundant body parts (such as 6 fingers), one who is often sick, one without hair or excessive hair and one with red eyes.
5. One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations, trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspires terror.
6. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not well known in society.
7. Prudent men should marry those women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.
8. Food offered and served to a brahman after the Shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal (a person belonging to low caste), a pig, a rooster, a dog, and a menstruating woman.
9. A brahman, a true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife and should avoid even looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look at her when she is having her meals or when she sneezes/yawns.
10. In order to preserve his energy and intellect, a brahman must not look at women while she applies collyrium to her eyes, one who is massaging her nude body or one who is delivering a child.
11. One should not accept meals from a woman who has extra marital relations; nor from a family exclusively dominated/managed by women or a family who has witnessed recent death.
12. A female child, young woman or old woman is not supposed to work independently even at her place of residence.
13. Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women under the custody of their husband when married, and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.
14. Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must not cease to worship or serve their husbands
15. Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband, if she wants to be exalted in heaven.
16. After the death of her husband, let her emaciate her body by living only on pure flowers, roots of vegetables and fruits. She should not mention the name of any other men after her husband has died.
17. Any woman violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and would become a patient of leprosy. After death, she would enter the womb of a jackal.
18. In case a lady enjoys sex with a man from a higher caste, the act is not punishable. However, if she enjoys sex with lower caste men, she is to be punished and kept in isolation.
19. In case a man from a lower caste enjoys sex with a woman from a higher caste; the person in question is to be given the death sentence. And if a person satisfies his carnal desire with women of his own caste, he should be asked to pay compensation to the woman’s faith.
20. In case a woman tears the membrane (hymen) of her vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or have two fingers cut off and made to ride on Donkey.
21. If a female, who is proud of the greatness of her excellence or her relatives, violates her duty towards her husband, the king shall arrange to have her thrown before dogs at a public place.
22. It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.
23. Consuming liquor, association with wicked persons, separation from her husband and sleeping for unreasonable hours – are demerits of women. Such women are not loyal and have extra marital relations with men because of their passion for men, immutable temper and heartlessness.
24. While performing namkarm and jatkarm (rituals), Vedic mantras are not to be recited by women, because they lack in strength and knowledge of Vedic texts. Women are impure and represent falsehood.
25. On failure to produce an offspring, she may obtain offspring by cohabitation with her brother-in-law or with some other relative on her in-law’s side.
26. He who is appointed to live with a widow shall approach her at night, be anointed with clarified butter and silently beget one son, but by no means a second one.
27. In accordance with established law, the sister-in-law must be clad in white garments; and with pure intent her brother-in-law will cohabit with her until she conceives.
28. Any woman who disobeys orders even of her lethargic, alcoholic or diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments.
29. A barren wife may be superseded in the 8th year; she whose children die may be superseded in the 10th year and she who bears only daughters may be superseded in the
11th year; but she who is quarrelsome may be superseded without delay.
30. In case of a problem in performing religious rites, males between the age of 24 and 30 should marry a female between the age of 8 and 12.
31. In case a brahman man marries a shudra woman, their son will be called ‘parshav’ or ‘shudra’ because his social existence is that of a dead body.
32. Brahman men can marry brahman, kshatriya, vaishnava and even shudra women but shudra men can marry only shudra women. However, in no situation should men from the other castes marry a shudra woman. If they do so, they would be responsible for the degradation of their family.
33. The offerings made by such a person at the time of established rituals are neither accepted by God nor by the departed soul; guests would also refuse to have meals with him and he is bound to go to hell after death.