No civilization can actually be considered civilized unless it protects its weaker sections, especially the cows, brahmanas, women, children, and elderly members. In Vedic society, as in any civilized culture, women must be protected as they are physically weak and are easily misled.
Srila Prabhupada said in a lecture:
“According to Vedic culture, first protection — to the cows, to the women, to the brahmanas, to the children, and to the old man. This is the first business of the government, to give protection. Practically, there is no criminal charge against them — against a brahmana, against a woman, a child. Suppose a child steals something. Who is going to prosecute him? It is not taken very seriously.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.21 — Los Angeles, July 11, 1974)
And in a purport in Srimad Bhagvatam the positive effect of protecting women is outlined:
“In the glorious days, or before the advent of the age of Kali, the brahmanas, the cows, the women, the children and the old men were properly given protection….
.. The protection of women maintains the chastity of society, by which we can get a good generation for peace, tranquility and progress of life….”
(SB 1.8.5 purport)
Further, in this same purport is given the result of insulting or killing any the members of these classes of society:
“In the age of Kali they are not properly protected, and therefore the duration of life of the present generation has shortened considerably. .. To insult a chaste woman means to bring about disaster in the duration of life. Duhsasana, a brother of Duryodhana, insulted Draupadi, an ideal chaste lady, and therefore the miscreants died untimely. These are some of the stringent laws of the Lord mentioned above.”
(SB 1.8.5, purport)
Women have an important function in society and are the mothers, sisters and daughters of society’s members. Theirs is a role nurturing, caring, and maintaining the overall emotional and physical wellbeing of the family members and the home. They also transmit to the children the first lessons of proper behavior, knowledge, proper character and even spirituality thus setting the foundation for responsible and suitable individuals who are qualified to take part in the Varnasrama institution. When women are corrupted or fall from their position it leads to the eventual downfall of the society (BG 1.40-2). Therefore, women and other weaker sections are given more protection than other sections of society and in order to properly protect them their freedom also needs to be restricted:
“This is the first business of the government, to give protection. Practically, there is no criminal charge against them — against a brahmana, against a woman, a child. Suppose a child steals something. Who is going to prosecute him? It is not taken very seriously. So they require protection. They should not be given freedom. Like a child, he is not given freedom, similarly freedom… Of course, there is. Protection means to some extent no freedom. If I want to protect the child, then I sometimes say, “Don’t do this.” That is one of the items of the protection.”
(Lecture on SB 1.16.21 — Los Angeles, July 11, 1974)
However, we do see incidents in sastra where women were attacked. Below are some examples:
– When Krsna descended the first demon he killed was female
– The first demon that Rama killed was a female
– Within Ramayana we also see that Suparnaka was also attacked and disfigured
– We see how Parasurama an incarnation of God also killed his mother under the order of his father.
How can we understand this? Are there contradictions in sastra? There are no contradictions in sastra, although there may appear to be. Sastra enjoins that women are to be respected and honored in society and there are therefore important guidelines on how they are to be treated leniently and dealt with in a way different from men in society. Indeed doing so “maintains the chastity of society, by which we can get a good generation for peace, tranquility and progress of life..” as mentioned in the purport of SB 1.8.5.
However, this is only when women behave as women and also take on the roles of their class, thus following their duties as outlined in sastra. We see how Drona in the Mahabharata fought in a war and was killed by Drstadyumna and Bhismadeva by Arjuna. Drona being a Brahmana was not to be killed or fought with and the same goes for Bhismadeva, who was supposed to be on the level of the grandfather and thus respected. However they were both engaged in combat and slain in the battle due to taking on the roles of aggressors and siding with aggressors. In Mahabharata, Bhismadeva told Parasurama that when a brahmana acts like a ksatriya then he no longer deserves the protection of the brahmanas and can be killed. In the same way, when women take on roles traditionally outlined as men’s roles in sastra, they can then expect to be dealt with as one will deal with men and they no longer deserve the protection due to women.
What happens when women take on the role of an aggressor or a role outside of their sastric duties? Are they to be forgiven, dealt with gently and punished lightly if at all? If we observe the actions of Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His incarnations of Sri Rama and Parasurma in the examples of women being attacked above, we see that if women transgress their roles and take on roles as aggressors or make gross violations of dharma, they become bona fide targets for attack even by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the maintainer of eternal religious principles (BG 11.18).
It goes without saying therefore that if sastra shows that woman in such a situation can be physically attacked, then to make them the object of satire and lampooning is also justified in relevant cases.
We commend the proponents of women’s rights for standing up for the proper treatment of women in the modern age as they are in effect following religious principles by carrying out that role. However, one has to take a look at the generational change that has unfortunately taken place in society in terms of the change in behavior and duties of modern women. Are they still carrying out their duties of personal sacrifice, nurturing and caring roles within the framework of family and home? Not anymore. The Marxist ideology of so-called Women’s liberation has pushed women to now take up roles of men in different fields of politics, army, professions in the legal field, sports, etc. This makes them compete with men directly. Under the circumstances, they cannot then clamor to be treated with respect and dignity. If they want equal rights with men then they have to also be ready to get equal rights to be attacked, character assassinated, insulted etc. For example, if a woman joins the army and she is captured by the opposing party, she cannot demand to be treated with respect and dignity which is due to a woman. This is not something desirable or pleasing to the author. But the point is that one can’t have it both ways. We need to respect women and treat them differently from men. But what if they start behaving like men?
In Ramayana one may think that Rama’s treatment of Suparnaka was excessive but then we need to remember that she actually lunged at Mother Sita to cause her bodily harm. We also see that it was Suparnaka who was the cause of the Ramayana war by causing Ravana to become lusty for Sita.
The Manu-samhita which Srila Prabhupada defined as the law of the human race, outlines punishments for various crimes committed by different sections of society. Therein we also find punishments for women. They are not let off for transgressing dharma. Some examples appear below:
“A damsel who pollutes (another) damsel must be fined two hundred (panas), pay the double of her (nuptial) fee, and receive ten (lashes with a) rod.” (v.8.369)
“But a woman who pollutes a damsel shall instantly have (her head) shaved or two fingers cut off, and be made to ride (through the town) on a donkey.” (Manu Samhita v.8.370)
“If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or (her own) excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.” (v.8.371)
These quotes show that in Vedic culture women as a class, although treated with due respect, dignity and lenience, are disciplined appropriately when transgressing dharma and etiquette. It’s not that their transgressions should be tolerated on the plea that they are women and should therefore not be disciplined or that they should be disciplined lightly and let off.
Below in a quote from Srimad Bhagavatam the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself gives instructions on how to deal with women in general and ‘society’ women in particular, and the purport given by Srila Prabhupada elaborates on it.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the form of Mohinī, told the demons: O sons of Kaśyapa Muni, I am only a prostitute. How is it that you have so much faith in Me? A learned person never puts his faith in a woman.” (SB 8.9.9)
In the purport, Srila Prabhupada says,
“Indirectly disclosing the purpose for which She had appeared before them, She said to the sons of Kaśyapa, “How is this? You were all born of a great ṛṣi, yet you are putting your faith in a woman who is loitering here and there like a prostitute, unprotected by father or husband. Women in general should not be trusted, and what to speak of a woman loitering like a prostitute?”
Here we see that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is instructing us on the proper way of dealing with women. It is mentioned in the verse that one should not put their faith in a woman. Mohini murti (Visnu) herein expresses surprise that especially for them, being ṛṣis (and therefore learned in sastra) they should not have put their faith in a woman and in particular a woman not under the protection of a male member of her family.
This same point is mentioned in many sastras thus showing the importance not appointing a women in any authoritative position:
In Hari-bhakti-vilasa 11.708, the Visnu Purana 3.12.30 is quoted regarding how a grhastha should work in this world:
“yosito navamanyetana casam visvased budhaù
na caiversur bhavet tasu nadhikuryat kadacana
“A wise man should never insult women, nor should he trust them. He should never become jealous of women, nor should he ever appoint them.”
Srila Sanatana Gosvami comments, nadhikuryat adhikaram na kuryat; yad va stribhyo ‘dhikaram na dadhyat ity arthaù. Nadhikuryat means one should not appoint women; in other words, one should not give authority to women.
There is a similar statement in the Mahabharata (Sabha Parva, Lokapala Sabhakhyana Parva, section 5; Ganguli edition, PDF version, p. 654), wherein Narada says to Yudhisthira:
“Consolest thou women and are they protected in thy realm? I hope thou placest not any confidence in them, nor divulgest any secret before any of them?”
And in the Ramayana 2.100.49, Lord Rama asks Bharata:
“Do you keep your womenfolk pacified? Are they duly protected by you? I hope you do not repose excessive faith in them and do not confide your secrets to them.”
Manu said that a woman must never be independent, not even in her own home:
“By a girl, a young woman, or even an aged one, nothing must be done independently, not even in her own house. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons. A woman must never be independent. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons. By leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband’s) families contemptible.”
Therefore sastra tells us very clearly what the proper behavior and social position of a woman is. A woman following this gets all good fortune. However the behavior and position that women have assumed in the modern day is directly opposite to what is outlined in sastra. To understand the reason why many men all over the world are beginning to fight back at the spread of so-called women’s rights one has to only go on YOU TUBE and search ‘women fights’ or women gangs and women’s crimes to get a good idea of the reality on the ground today. Many people mistake men who oppose the women’s liberation movement and target the protagonists of the woman’s liberation movement as misogynist. However their actual target is not women as a class, but only those who have abandoned practically all the roles or duties of women and are endangering the social stability and fabric by propagating this dangerous idea of independent women in society. Srila Prabhupada said that for peace and prosperity and a good population, women must be given protection by elder members of the family, specifically the male members, in other words, there shouldn’t be ‘independent’ women.
“Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in life. The varnasrama religion’s principles were so designed that the good population would prevail in society for the general spiritual progress of state and community. Such population depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. Therefore, both children and women require protection by the elder members of the family.”
The real wellwisher of women, men and society is one who tries to uphold the above system and the actual enemy of society is one who works to destroy the above system.
So if women and men think that we should treat women specially and overlook their transgressions then we have to also say that such women and men who are demanding that better treatment should also encourage the women in question to take on the position and role of women, some of which are given in the quotes above, and not act contrary to that, otherwise it is hypocritical and unrealistic. A woman should not desire to be placed and should not place herself in a position of authority if we at all want to call ourselves followers of the Vedic culture.
If a woman takes up a position of authority or management then she can be expected to be targeted in any number of ways and cannot then try and invoke the Vedic rules for proper treatment of women. A case in point here is the assassination of two women heads of state of Pakistan and India, respectively. Although in these countries there is respect for women, the women heads of state of these countries were still targeted by political groups as they had clashed with them.
Equal rights to become leaders and managers etc. also means an equal right to be the object of satire, to be slandered, attacked, lampooned and commented on etc. as happens in politics and debating. There shouldn’t just be a sentimental attitude to this topic but rather, a practical and realistic approach.
People may not see it now, but in future it will come to pass that the worst thing that has ever happened to women as a class is the Women’s liberation movement which has pulled women out of their high moral stature, character and protection and promise of being provided for by male members of the family and thrown them on the street to fend for themselves and be exploited by unscrupulous men. In fact, Srila Prabhupada said to a woman reporter in the U.S. that the Woman’s liberation movement was started by and is mainly propagated by lusty men in order to pull women out of their protective sphere so that they could enjoy them.
“Just take this “women’s liberation”—it is simply a trick by the men. Now the men can have free prostitutes, that’s all. And once a man makes a woman pregnant, he can go away and let her choose between begging support from the government or killing her child . . . abortion. You may not like to hear it, but “women’s liberation” means that the men have tricked you.”
(Srila Prabhupada Interview, Philadelphia, July 1975)