Boys, please don’t learn how to be men from religious scriptures

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During the recent turmoil in New Delhi after the ghastly rapé incident one slogan hit me with more force than any other – ‘Kapdey Nahin Soch Badlo’. This slogan summarizes what culturally ails India and prevents it from becoming a true world leader – economically, culturally and spiritually.

We all decry the double standards of our culture – it deifies women as goddesses but in real life expects women to have no identity of their own or even be treated with equal respect. However by reading the sacred Indian scriptures, we can discover many examples glorifying such misogynistic behavior in our heroes.

Misogyny within Indian Scriptures

Take the case of the first recorded case of moléstation of a woman in Indian Holy Scriptures… How else shall we treat the disróbing of Draupadi by Dushasana in public in the famous epic of Mahabharat? While Draupadi was being molésted what did all the men who were supposed to uphold ‘dharma’ do apart from sitting quietly in dumb silence? None responded to the pleas and questions of Draupadi. One may concede that the guilt conscience of the five husbands of Draupadi may have shamed them to silence. But what prevented the elders (Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, etc.) from stepping in to challenge/ prevent the disróbing? Have we ever encouraged our children to perceive the act of the elders in Mahabharat in this way so that they can develop critical skill of enquiry? Know why? As people in power (parents, teachers, spiritual gurus, business leaders, etc.) we often feel threatened when legitimately questioned by those lower in hierarchy.


Or take the many lovely stories revolving around Lord Krishna teasing his devoted gopis/ gopikas (cow-herd girls). Sure, we all acknowledge that Lord Krishna knew his limits and stayed well within them. However, do we recognize that if similar real life behaviour is engaged by our teenage boys/ men can encourage them to lose control and behave like Dushasana of Mahabharat? When and how often have we used this story to teach our boys/ men where and how to draw the line of ‘maryada’ (code of conduct/ propriety) while dealing with girls/ women?

Or finally take the case of Lord Ram abandoning Sita just because a dhobi doubted her continued status of ‘pativrata’ (a woman whose devotion and loyalty is only to her husband) after she was abducted by Ravana. How come we never care to find out why Lord Ram considered upholding his kingship a higher duty than the sacred vow he took on his marriage to Sita? From a woman’s point of view, is that how she expects her life partner to treat her? As spiritual gurus, parents, teachers have we taken a moment to sensitize our boys to a feminine viewpoint? How would a male feel/ handle the situation if they were treated in like manner?

Openly Debate Cultural Values

Sure, there could be other stories where women are shown with great respect but I bring these three cases on account of their popularity. I find that our spiritual mentors (at home and outside) attempt to extract only those moral values that promotes status quo or male world order after reciting these stories. Unfortunately our women share a greater burden of guilt for continuing to promote such misogynist teaching to our children as they are acknowledged to be the greatest influence on a child in their first five years.

It is unfortunate that sacred scriptures are taught without openly debating about the consequences of the behavior of its various heroes. We are expected to accept and mindlessly follow ‘dharma’ without understanding what it is and believing that whatever is taught in the name of Indian culture is ‘right and correct’.

We Reap What We Sow

Do you expect to reap sweet watermelons after sowing ‘karela’ (bitter gourd) seeds? Then why should we expect gentlemanly behavior from our boys/ men after teaching them to follow the examples of these cultural heroes? Why do we get upset and angry when men (and some women) in leadership positions promote misogyny in their public statements? After all they are just repeating what their elders taught them. We serve to propagate the very same errors of our culture if we don’t stop to question them.

In short, we will continue to promote what we believed all our lives if we don’t stop and question if we have really learnt the right lessons. Like boys being boys can do no wrong since the poor blameless things are not in control of their thoughts/ emotions and hence themselves. By agreeing to various suggestions of censorship don’t we all acknowledge that our boys do not even have basic self control and are easily enticed by lewd books/ films/ songs and provocative girls?

Kapdey Nahin Soch Badlo

So we respond by readily agreeing to self proclaimed right wing leaders and fundamentalists who seek to attempt to protect our innocent boys from the deleterious influence of vulgar books/ films/ songs by banning them in the vain hope that this would help solve the problem. Since we cannot ban girls (where abortion/ infanticide are no longer a legal option) we often put the onus on our girls and hope they will learn not to:

• wear western clothes
• talk to boys (especially those who are not part of the family)
• go out, and if you do need to, go with father, husband or other male member
• go beyond customary ‘maryada’ (social limits)
• work after marriage
• go out alone and to have couple of friends to tag along
• go to pubs, social dos, etc.
• use bus shelters that located in isolated locations

We also encourage our girls to remember to:

• call rapists ‘bhaiya’ – in the hope that they acknowledge their dharma
• wear Indian clothes – in the belief that saris and chaniya-cholis are not séxy
• raise children and do housework after marriage – hoping it will de-séxualize the woman
• keep company of other girls if ever you go out – in the hope that there is protection in numbers
• stay on roads that are well lit – and expect their beauty to blind the moléster giving the girls time to seek/ get protection

Our current cultural guidance for boys is so much simpler:

• Boys will be boys, how else do we expect them to behave – in the belief that society is helpless against raging male hormones
• Be a security guard (if a brother), a god and procreator (if a husband)

In today’s day and age is it fair to expect men to forget that they will no longer be gods to the women they marry or a protector to the neighborhood girl after inculcating male superiority for much of their lives?

Written by JP Sundharam >>

J P Sundharam is traditional but a non-conformist (may be even viewed as an iconoclast) who strongly believes the power history, religion and culture play in our lives.

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Indian Exponent: Boys, please don’t learn how to be men from religious scriptures
Boys, please don’t learn how to be men from religious scriptures
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