Delhi HC Judge Praise for ‘Manusmriti’ for Giving ‘Respectable Position’ to Women Draws Sharp Criticism
Justice Prathiba M. Singh.Image Courtesy: Livelaw
New Delhi: Delhi high court Justice Prathiba M. Singh on Wednesday, at an event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said Indian scriptures like Manusmriti give a very “respectable position” to women.
According to Bar and Bench, she said: “I really think we are a blessed lot of women in India and the reason for that is our scriptures have always given a very respectable position for women and as Manusmriti itself says that if you don’t respect and honour women, all the pooja path that you may do has no meaning. So I think our ancestors and Vedic scriptures knew very well how to respect women."
Ironically, she was asked to speak on the challenges, or the “unseen barriers” women are facing in our country today in Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Mathematics (STEM).
Justice Singh has drawn flak from various individuals and organisations. The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) in a press statement strongly objected to her statement praising Manusmriti for giving a very respectable position to women.
“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completely driven by sexual passions and to be kept from acting independently, where it is prescribed that they may be superseded if they do not bear male children, where children born of a woman co-habiting with a man from a so-called ‘excluded’ caste are said to be subjected necessarily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,” the statement reads.
The women’s organisation further said that the judge seemed 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 Indian people who are united with one another only through the 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.” the statement further reads.
AIDWA believes that as a woman, people expect better wisdom from women judges and have also urged her to withdraw her words.
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