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Lecture 9

RE321 Lecture 9: RE321 Lesson 9 Sarvodaya and the Constructive Program Cont'd Women and Education

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Religion & Culture
Alexander Damm

RE321 Lesson 9: Sarvodaya and the Constructive Program contd: Women and Education In the last lesson, we suggested that Gandhi brought his concern for sarvodaya or equality a method for achieving swaraj, the life of tradition to bear on untouchability and HinduMuslim relations Gandhi did not stop there He was similarly concerned to foster social equality between the genders, and to launch an educational program that could teach Truth as he saw it to the nations youth Gandhi and the Status of Women Womens Status in India: A Brief History Historically speaking, we can summarize womens status in nineteenth and early twentieth century India as being relatively low Traditional Indian culture, with some exceptions, is patriarchal Although patriarchy is not distinct to India, patriarchy was entrenched in India o Feministcritical scholars have taught us that most of the worlds cultures and religious traditions were and to some degree remain patriarchal In the 19 century, the subordination of women to men in terms of authority, influence, wealth, and status tended to cut across religious lines o Patriarchy found itself at home in Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian cultures o Most Indian men tended to regard Indian women as people of lesser status o We are generalizing numerous Indian traditions have praised and highlighted respect for women, and as such as cant conclude that patriarchy was always uniform or entrenched Be that as it may, patriarchy had several implications for womens lives: 1. Indian society tended to exclude women from education in the literate and numerate and philosophical senses o Such education was the province of males o Females were to be educated in the domestic (household) sphere 2. Women were vocationally confined to this domestic sphere o Their role was mainly to provide a comfortable home for their husbands o Through cooking, cleaning, and the rearing of children o Men worked in vocations outside of the home 3. Women were often regarded as sexual objects o A woman was generally expected to furnish sexual pleasure to the extent that a man sought o This view of women found various expressions o I.e. south of India the sexual use of devadasis (servants of a god), girls and women who functioned on the one hand as Hindu temple dancers and functionaries, and on the other hand were sometimes employed by the temple as prostitutes Related to these three implications were numerous other expressions of patriarchy, including: A. Purdah: seclusion of women within the home B. Sati: a wifes selfimmolation upon the funeral pyre of her husband, should he predecease her C. Social alienation of widows: in theory, a woman who outlives her husband has not adequately cared for him
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