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Women's Rights Vs. Religious Culture: Exploring Forced Marriage in India

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Women's Rights vs. Religious Culture: Exploring Forced Marriage in India

Sexism is an ongoing problem which is studied by sociologists. The politically correct definition of sexism is discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender, especially discrimination directed against women. In India, women's rights are vaguely noticed or taken into consideration. For many years now Indian women have been subjected to forced marriages by the alpha male in their family. Women don't get to choose who they marry; instead they are forced to marry whomever their parents choose. In some cases, when males are chosing a women to marry, they have sex with them first to see if the women is impregnable. If the woman can't become pregnant, the male leaves them and moves on to whoever is next in line. India's patriarchal Hindu primordial socio-biological religious stratification causes the subordination of women, taking away their rights and leading to forced marriage. This is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In order to speculate against the matter, one must gain an understanding of the history of religions in India, Indian culture, Hinduism, male dominance in the Hindu Patriarchal Caste System, and women's rights in India.

Literature Review:

Brian K. Smith, author of Classifying the Universe: The Ancient Indian Varna System and the Origins of Caste, notes the role that cosmogonies recorded in Vedic texts play in supporting, legitimizing, and perpetuating caste divisions in Hindu society. Smith is keen on finding answers to the question, what is Hinduism? Smith reports that the Hinduism Caste system has been in place for centuries and it all started with the Vedic religion. Another word for the Hinduism Caste system is varna. Varna is the ancient stratification of classes in which the Hindu Caste was derived from. Smith explains the beginning of Varna, which gives an

academic start to understanding Indian culture and society in terms of male dominance and women subordination. But Smith fails to recognize the sheer pagan nature of a caste system revolving around religion. Rather, Smith describes the birthplace for varna and where it derived from, not the severity of the stratification.

Hinduism in itself can be considered as a Diaspora. The Life of Hinduism, by J.S. Hawley, and V. Narayanan, is a book which depicts the life of Hinduism. It looks at the social aspects, customs and practices, and religious life of Hinduism. The authors socially view Hinduism as a Diaspora creed because the text states, "… religions are alternate ways of worshiping the same divine principle and thus should not claim monopoly of spiritual wisdom." (Narayanan, Hawley, 249) In other words, the authors refer to it as a Diaspora because according to Hinduism, all other religions are variations of the same principle originating from Hinduism. It differs from the original definition of Diaspora but sociologists Satzewich and Liodakis support this theory in one of the definitions of a Diaspora. Coming from sociologist Robin Cohen, a Diaspora can be "a collective memory and myth about the homeland;" or, "idealization of the supposed ancestral home" (Satzewich, Liodakis, 262). Pulling from Brian K. Smith's study, Hinduism transgressed from the ancient Indian varna system which, according to Narayanan and Hawley, suggests why they call Hinduism Sanatana Dharma in India, which translates into "the eternal religion" (Narayanan and Hawley). There are two reasons which Narayanan and Hawley give to support why Indian's call their religion "the eternal religion". First, "...unlike other religions, it has no profounder, and consequently its beginnings cannot be traced to a specific date in antiquity." (N&H, 250). Thus defined it is the only religion to be deprived of its date of origin. Second, "it can be said to incorporate the spirit of the world’s diverse religions, and thus can be equated with the eternal Religion itself." (N&H, 250). This, redefines Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma. In

consonance with Narayanan and Hawley, Dharma is a Sanskrit word referring to a man's "Nature and Religion" (N&H, 250). In other words, Hindu explains that religion gives way to establishing man's real nature. Narayanan and Hawley explain in detail the life of Hinduism, but refrain from explaining male dominance, or transgression toward women. However, in theory, because of what Hindu's believe about their religion being "the eternal religion" it could give reason to Hindu male's being patriotic towards their country and religion in support of the Hindu caste system which puts male's over female's.

Moving on to the caste system, Murray Milner, author of Status and Sacredness: A General Theory of Status Relations and an Analysis of Indian Culture provides a bold new way of interpreting Indian culture. Murray invents a new social concept he calls “resource structuralism” with the ideology that power and class go hand in hand. Resource structuralism is the social concept based on the theory of predestination, meaning that everyone is born to be what they become. No matter what ethnicity, race, culture, or language you speak, you were already destined to become that. Milner offers a new view on Indian culture and religion and argues that social class is important in achieving things one couldn't achieve without a social position. Milner argues that it is not necessarily the Hindu religion that is responsible for the caste system, rather it is a social structure which is inevitable. The article 10: What about caste and untouchability? by Hinduism Today, discusses the two social structures of Hindu society which is the caste system. The first system, varna, divides society into four groups in chronological order: "workers, business people, lawmakers/law enforcers and priests" (Hinduism Today, 12). Varna is a traditional stratification which has been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years, as Brian K. Smith's study informs us. The second group, the author writes, is Jati. Jatti consists of thousands of merchants and traders, or guilds, which follow a single

profession. The author describes the social aspects of jati and explains, "Jati members usually marry within their own jati and follow traditions associated with their jati. In urban areas they often enter other occupations, but still usually arrange marriages within the jati" (Hinduism Today, 12). Hinduism Today provides another explanation for forced marriage, saying the jati marry within their own stratification and the marriages are usually arranged as



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