Manav Dharma Shastra, also known as Manusmriti is one of the most authoritative Hindu scriptures. Consisting 2690 verses divided into 12 chapters, it was written by a man who presumably used the “Manu” as his nomme-de-plume.
It prescribes a divine code of conduct that determines and dictates each person’s role and status in a society. Including women.
As a Brahminical text it has been defended on numerous occasions by the community, often stating that this code of conduct propagates the belief that where women are given a place of honour there will be peace and prosperity.
This place of honour, according to this divine code of conduct is selectively applied and not arbitrarily awarded to every unworthy woman.
What, you may ask makes a woman unworthy exactly? Moreover, what makes them worthy is perhaps more serious.
“Swabhav ev narinam …..” – 2/213. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.
Perhaps, that is why from the day a girl starts showing the slightest hint of becoming a woman she is given a few strict guidelines as to how she must deal with a man.
If we truly do not believe that it is in a woman’s nature to seduce men then why is it that we as children are told not to initiate conversations with men? Not to make eye contact, especially with a stranger in a social establishment? Not to be alone with a man ever if it can be avoided? To guard and cover our bodies because just by having breasts and shapely hips we have definitively proven that we are here for no other purpose but to seduce all the worthy and handsome men in this world.
Also, is it not in the nature of a man to seduce a woman? How biology has explained it to me is, men are overtly sexual creatures; predisposed to give credence to the physical and the visual long before they do so for the emotional and the sensual. To me, it seems like the creature with seduction on his mind is the man more than the woman. The creature with the advanced capability to seduce however, forgive the arrogance, is the woman.
But it all comes down to this, why is the Hindu propagating this text and why is the feminist so angered by this clause?
Is it unwise to warn a man against the seduction he may “fall victim to”? Is it really so wrong for a woman to attempt to seduce a man?
Or, for that matter to warn a man he ought to be guarded in a woman’s company?
Nails may look harmless, but they’re not.
The problem it would seem, is the way seduction itself is being viewed; as something illicit and wrong.
“Avidvam samlam………..” – 2/214. Women, true to their class character, are capable of leading astray men in this world, not only a fool but even a learned and wise man. Both become slaves of desire.
The problem with this clause starts with the term “class character”. Just what exactly does the class character of a woman imply?
Could it be that this text believes that the class character of a woman is represented by her constant need to seduce men and therefore everything she does and believes must be a function of that?
So, Hinduism respects the diversity and dynamicity of each individual while maintaining that women are capable of only one train of thought? Or biologically designed to fulfill one function?
Silly of me, the function I thought I was put on this planet to dutifully fulfill was procreation.
Moving on from the “class character” of women, if we really even can, the rest of this clause seems more like a compliment that a derogatory statement to me.
Every woman can lead astray any man in this world (save for my gay brethren), just as this sacred text claims. What it forgets to mention is that sometimes, even though we just cannot get enough of seducing and destroying men, we like to work, shop, gossip.. Live, like a real person minus the curse of a class character might.
“Matra swastra ………..” – 2/215. Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.
This particular clause might just be my favorite in the entire enlightening text; it seems to be more a statement on men than on women.
Since any actual statistics on rape are unfathomable, I will just say that upwards of 25% of incidents of rape (which includes a lot more that you might think under the new rape laws in India)are perpetrated from within the family. It might have been exceptionally wise of these men to have avoided being in the presence of their mothers, daughters or children altogether to avoid carnal desire.
It just confuses me that a religion that is often taught via the means of importance of family values would in itself sow the seeds for sexual discomfort between family members.
I know that as a race we have been uncivilized for a lot longer than we have been civilized but even ancient Australian tribes went way out of their way to avoid incest and incestuous activity.
Another question I would like to ask is, exactly at what age should the father start avoiding being alone with his daughter? Are female infants, often deemed incapable of modesty by Indian courts, also capable of extracting the carnal desire from an unsuspecting man?
Because you know in this day and age it is getting harder and harder to afford help and this clause just seems like an excuse for a man to dump all the child-work on the woman?
But how can he? The woman is capable of nothing but seduction, or is she all of a sudden?
“Naudwahay……………..” – 3/8. One should not marry women who has have reddish hair, redundant parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.
Manu didn’t say it quite like we practice it, but we all know the bride-bazaar is full of men seeking beautiful, slim, non-redundant body part women.
But coming back to the actual clause at hand, I get it.
Reddish hair are a genetic defect. Why marry a defected woman?
Redundant body parts are just wasteful skin that cannot be used to seduce and may even require additional nourishment.
Falling sick often would cut down the seduction time, if there ever was a man so considerate.
Excessive hair would send the waxing bills through the roof.
And red eyes just indicate drug use.
Steer clear of these unworthy women, will you?
Just one question, where is the clause which advises women on what men not to marry?