AIDWA strongly objects to and deplores the reported statement of Justice Prathiba M. Singh praising Manusmriti for giving a very respectable position to women. The statement was a part of her inaugural speech at a conference recently organized by FICCI. Here she speaks of Indian women as being a ‘blessed lot’ because of scriptures like Manusmriti, where she says it has been said that ‘if you do not respect and honour women, all the pooja path you may do has no meaning’.
Firstly the actual quote from Manusmriti is that ‘gods reside in such places where women are held in honour’. One may give at least ten other quotes from the same text where women are described as untrustworthy and completely driven by sexual passions and to be kept from acting independently, where it is prescribed that they may be superseded if they do not bear male children, where children born of a woman co-habiting with a man from a so-called ‘excluded’ caste are said to be subjected necessarily to ‘even greater exclusion’. Manusmriti is not even a ‘vedic text’ as the learned judge says, but a compilation done at a particular historical juncture with the specific purpose of strengthening and spreading Brahminical hegemony. It is deplorable that the learned judge has overlooked its essential contradiction to the Indian Constitution and the Indian legal system which she has sworn to obey and which has allowed her to occupy her present honoured position.
Secondly, she seems also to have forgotten that India is a country of many creeds, and by describing Manusmriti as ‘our scriptures’ she is taking a majoritarian divisive stand and alienating herself from large sections of our people who are united with one another only through our democratic secular Constitution and for whom Manusmriti has no meaning. As a public figure representing justice for all she certainly cannot afford to do this. This is particularly deplorable in a situation where almost every day we are listening to politicians and peoples’ representatives from the ruling party making atrocious statements insulting women, insulting so-called ‘lower castes’ and religious minorities and sanctioning violence against them. If even someone in the judiciary takes a biased attitude as she has done, it will increase the insecurity of the above-mentioned sections.
As a women’s organization we expect better wisdom from our women judges and urge upon her to withdraw her words.