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Regeneration of Indian Women
Woman has been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible and in the shaping of which she had no hand. In a plan of life based on non- violence, women have as much right to shape her own destiny as man has to shape his. But as every rights in a non-violent society proceed from the precious performance of a duty, it follows that rules of the social conduct must be framed by mutual co- operation and consultation. They can never be imposed from outside. Men have not realized this truth in its fullness in their behaviour towards women. They have considered themselves to be lords women. They have considered themselves to be lords and masters of women instead of considering them as their friends and co-workers. Women are in the position somewhat of the slave of old who did not know that he could or ever had to be free. And when have been taught to regard themselves they enable of men. It is up to Congressmen to see that they enable them to realize their full status and play their part as equals of men.
This revolution is easy, if the mind up. Let congressmen begin with their own homes. Wives should not be dolls and object of indulgence, but should be treated as honored comrades in common service. To this end those who have not received a liberal education should receive such instruction as is possible for their husbands. The same observation applies, with the necessary changes, to mothers and daughters.
It is hardly necessary to point out that I have gives a one-sided picture of the helpless state of India’s women. I am quite conscious of the fact that in the villages generally they hold their own with their men folk and in some respects even rule them. But to the impartial outsider the legal and customary status of women is bad enough throughout and demands radical alteration.
Constructive Programme, pp.17-18
Legislation has been mostly the handiwork of men; and man has not always been fair and discriminating in performing that self-appointed task. The largest parts of our efforts, in promoting the regeneration of women, should be directed towards removing those blemishes which are represented in our Shastras as the necessary and ingrained characteristic of women. Who will attempt this and how? In my humble opinion, in order to make the attempt we will have to produce women, pure, firm and self-controlled as Sita, Damayanti and Draupadi. If we do produce them, such modern sisters will have the same authority as the Shastras. We will feel ashamed of the stray reflections on them in our Smritis, and will soon forget them. Such revaluations have occurred in Hinduism in the past, and will still take place in the future, lending to the stability of our faith.
Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 424
Woman is the companion of man gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in every minute detail in the activities of man and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him. She is entitled to a supreme place in her own sphere of activity as man is in his. This ought to be the natural condition of things and not as a result only of leaning to read and write. By sheer force of a vicious custom, even the most ignorant and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority over women which they do not deserve and ought not to have. Many of our movements stop half way because of the conditions of our women. Much of our works done dose not yield appropriate results; our lot is like that of the penny-wise and pound-foolish trader who does not employ enough capital in his business.
Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 425
Equality of Sexes
I am uncompromising in the matter of women’s rights. In my opinion she should labour under no legal disability not suffered by men. I should treat the daughters and sons on a footing of perfect equality.
Young India, 17-10-‘29
Equity of sexes does not mean equity of occupations. There may be no legal bar against woman hunting or wielding a lance. But she instinctively recoils form a function that belongs to man. Nature has created sexes as complements of each other. Their functions are defined as are their forms.
A large part of the miseries of today can be avoided, if we look at the relations between the sexes in a healthy and pure light, and regard ourselves as trustees for the moral welfare of the future generations.
Young India, 27-9-‘28
Marriage is a natural thing in life, and to consider it derogatory in any sense is wrong…. The ideal is to look upon marriage as a sacrament, and therefore, to lead a life of self- restraint in the married state.
Chastity is not a hot-house growth. It cannot be protected by the surrounding wall of the Purdha. It must growth from within, and to be worth anything is must be capable of withstanding every unsought temptation.
Young India, 3-2-‘27
And why is there all this morbid anxiety about female purity? Have women any say in the matter of male purity? We hear nothing of women’s anxiety about men’s chastity. Why should men arrogate to themselves the right to regulate female purity? It cannot be superimposed form without. It is a matter of evolution from within and therefore of individual self effort.
Young India 25-11-26
The Dowry System
The system has to go. Marriage must cease to be a matter of arrangement made by the parents for money. The system is intimately connected with caste. So long as the choice is restricted to a few hundred young men or young women of a particular caste, the system will persist no matter what is said against it. The girls or boys or their parents will have to break the bonds of caste if the evil is to be eradicated. All this means education of a character that will revolutionize the mentality of the youth of the nation.
Any Young Man Who makes dowry a conditions of marriage discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood. There are many youth movement in the country. I wish that these movements would deal with question of this character. Such associations often become self-adulation societies, instead of becoming, as they should be, bodies representing solid reform from within…. A strong public opinion should be created in condemnation of the degrading practice of dowry and young men who soil their fingers with such ill-gotten gold should be excommunicated from society. Parents of girls should not cease to be dazzled by English degrees and provinces to secure true, gallant young men for their daughters.
Young India, 21-6’28
Voluntary widowhood consciously adopted by a woman who has felt the affection of a partner adds grace and dignity to life, sanctifies the home and uplifts religious itself. Widowhood imposed by religion or custom is an unbearable yoke and defiles the home by secret vice and degrades religion.
If we would be pure, if we would save Hinduism, we must rid ourselves of this poison of enforced widowhood. The reform must begin by those who have girl widows taking courage in both their hands and seeing that the child widows in their charges are duly and well married- not remarried. They were never really married.
Young India, 5-8-,26
Marriage confirms the right of union between two partners to the exclusion of all the others when in their joint opinion they consider such union to be desirable, but it confers no right upon one partner to demand obedience of the other to one’s wish for union. What should be done when one partner on moral or other grounds cannot conform to the wishes of the other is a separate question. Personally, if divorce was the only alternative, I should not hesitate to accept it, rather than interrupt my moral progress assuming that I want to restrain myself on purely moral grounds.
For me, the married state is as much a state of discipline as any other. Life is duty, a probation. Married life is intended to promote mutual good, both here and hereafter. It is meant also to serve humanity. When one partner breaks the law of discipline, the right accrues to the other of breaking the bond. The breach here is moral and not physical. It precludes divorce. The wife or the husband separates but to serve the end for which they have united. Hinduism regards each as absolute equal of the other. No doubt a different practice has grown up, no one knows since when. But so have many other evils crept into it. This, however, I do know that Hinduism leaves the individual absolutely free to do what he or she likes for the sake of self-realization, for which and which alone he or she is born.
Young India, 21-10-26
I have always held that it is physically impossible to violence a women against her will. The outrage takes place only when she gives way to fear or does not realize her moral strength. If she cannot meet the assailant’s physical might, her purity will gives the strength to die before he succeeds in violating her. Take the case of Sita. Physically she was a weakling before Ravana, but her purity was more than a match even for his giant might. He tried to win her with all kind of allurements but could not carnally tough her without her consent on the other hand, if a women depends on her own physical strength or upon a weapon she possesses, she is sure to be discomfited whenever her strength is exhausted.
When a woman is assaulted she may not stop to think in terms of himsa of ahimsa. Her primary duty is self-protection. She is at liberty to employ every method or mean that come to her mind in order to define her honour. God has given her nails and teeth, She must use them with all her strength and, if need be, die in the effort. The man or women who has shed all fear of death will be able not only to protect himself all fear of death will be able not only to protect himself or herself but others also through laying down his life.
Prostitution in as old as the world, but I wonder if it was ever a regular feature of town life as it is today. In any case the time must come when humanity will rise against the cure and make prostitution a thing of the past, as it has got rid of many evil customs, however time-honoured they might have been.
Young India, 28-5-‘25