International Women's Day: What Religions Say about Women?
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we are representing what most of the religions preach about women. We have covered issues like gender equality, education, rights and marriage.
Religion has been an integral part of human civilization so is the woman. Every Religion has been a guiding philosophy for related society. So it is important to know what they about the half of the civilization i.e. woman. We have described what most of the religions say and preach about women.
Hinduism and Women
1. Female Birth
The beliefs of Hinduisms are based on Vedas. There is no evidence in the Vedas that daughter was regarded as inferior to son. In Vedas, it is never mentioned that the birth of a girl child was considered undesirable. In Vedas, there is evidence that a female child was pampered as carefully as a male child. Therefore, Vedas can be considered as the golden period for early women empowerment and development in India.
In Vedic scriptures, there are many terms which were used for a girl. These are duhita, kanya, kaaneea, kanayala etc. The meaning of all these terms is similar to Kanya. The meaning of Kanya is “desirable in the society” and “the pupil of the eye”.
Vedas have a unique tradition in itself because in this civilization education is compulsory for both girls and boys. In Vedic tradition, both boys and girls are required to a process named as religious initiation called upnayana which entitles them to study of Vedic texts. The education of girl child is appreciated in the Vedas. A tenet of Yajurveda states ““O king and other nobles: make adequate arrangements to train lady teachers for imparting training to girl students who, on obtaining maturity, select for themselves their partner for marriage.”
In the Vedic system or Hinduism, marriage is an optional institution. Child marriages are unknown to the Vedas. Vedas give a girl freedom to take decisions about her life. In the Vedic period, females were free to decide their life partner.
Islam and Women
1.Spiritual Status of women
In Holy Quran, it is clearly dictated that a woman has a soul, that she has the same spiritual capacity as a man, and that she can attain equal spiritual rewards by her own efforts.
The Quran states, “ whoever does good works, whether male or female and is a believer, such shall enter heaven…”.
2. Education Rights
Prophet Muhammad inspired his wives to seek knowledge and once stated that “half the religion of Islam could be learned from Ayesha (his wife). He emphasized that education is compulsory for both.
Islam provided women equal opportunity to acquire knowledge 1400 years ago. Islam stresses that education for men and women is of equal importance. A verse in Quran says “O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.”
3. Economic Rights
Islam has given rights to women to possess wealth and property, whether it is inherited or earned.
A verse of the Quran states, “Men shall have the share of what they have earned, and women shall have the share of what they have earned…” This verse gives women a clear right to manage their own wealth.
Another verse of the Quran says, “For men, there is a share of that which parents and near relatives leave, and for women also there is a share of that which parents and near relatives leave,— a determined share.”
Sikhism and Women
1. Praise of Women
Sikhism’s beliefs are based on Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak writes “We take birth from a woman, we are shaped in the woman's womb; We are engaged to the woman, to the woman we are wedded; Our friend is the woman and our family is from the woman; The bonds of the world are through the; From the woman is the woman, without woman there is none".
2. Gender Equality
The Guru Granth Sahib reprimands those who think women as inferior to men. It sees women as active partners in advancing general happiness, goodwill, and the collective moral values of society. This belief definitively considers women to be placed in high esteem.
Guru Nanak openly scolded those who attributed pollution to women because of menstruation. He asserted that pollution lies in the heart and mind of the person and not in the cosmic process of birth.
Sikhism provides the socio-religious equality to women in every part of the life. Guru Nanak introduced the Concept of Sangat (holy congregation) - where both men and women can sit together and equally participate in reciting the praises of the Divine and Pangat - sitting together, irrespective of caste or social status differences, to eat a common meal in the Institution of Langar (common kitchen).
In Sikhism marriage is not a power equation where a man is given higher status than a woman. Sikhism stresses that marriage is an equal partnership of love and sharing between husband and wife. Married life is celebrated to restore to woman her due place and status as an equal partner in life. Sri Guru Granth Sahib declares "They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies".
Buddhism and Women
Buddhism does not make any difference in the birth of a girl or boy. Here is a sense of equanimity for both genders. One example of it is the Buddha's advice to the King Pasenadi of Kosala, who was a close devotee of his, that a daughter is never a cause of worry and despair rather it is a cause of celebrations in the life.
Buddhism advocates for the equal educational opportunities of women or their religious freedom. The Buddha clearly accepted that women are enabled to realize the Truth, just as men are. Despite being not in favor of the admission of women into the Order at the beginning, Buddha permitted women to take admission in the order. The Buddhist texts provide the record of eminent saintly Bhikkhunis, who were very learned and who were experts in preaching the Dhamma.
Buddhism has rational approach while dealing with the issues related to gender equality. Buddhism accepts the biological and physical differences between man and woman but it also considers men and women to be equally useful to the society.
The Buddha said in any family both husbands and wives are supposed to share equal responsibility and discharge their duties with equal dedication. The husband is advised to treat the wife as a friend, a companion, and a partner.
Buddhism allows a wife to acquaint herself with the business, trade, or industries in which the husband engaged.
Jainism and Women
Jainism is considered to be a religion of religious equality. It is devoted to recognizing the rights of all living creatures. So it is not surprising that it accepts that women are able to play their part on the road to liberation. The principle of social equality among the classes and sexes is well established in Jain Religion.
In Jainism, women are given equality of opportunity for education. Jainism considers that it is of the utmost importance to impart education to females, along with males.
Rsabhadeva, who was the first Tirthankara, had advised his two young daughters, Brahmi and Sundari, that "only when you would adorn yourself with education your life would be fruitful because just as a learned man is held in high esteem by educated persons, a learned lady also occupies the highest position in the female world."
Jainism says women should know 64 arts which include painting, dancing, music, aesthetics, domestic science medicine, etc.
Jainism talks about non-Violence. It considers it is evil to kill or cause harm to the micro-organisms. So it is against any kind of violence against women in the society.
Christianity and Women
Bible says “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”
Christian ethic advocates for the equal values and worth for both women and men. Husbands were commanded to love their wives and not exasperate their children. Women were also granted basically the same control over their property as men and mothers were allowed to be guardians of their children.
Bible Says “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Christianity openly advocates for the education of females. It advocated for the idea of schools for women. It also appealed to the society for funding for girl education.
The biblical considers husbands and wives as equal partners. Christianity eroded the ancient practice of men marrying child brides against their will, often as young as eleven or twelve years old. It enhanced the age for girl’s marriage. Christianity gives great marital freedom to women. That is why a western woman is not compelled to marry someone she does not want, nor can she legally be married as a child bride.