Men and women

The role of men and women in the family is a difficult issue for three main reasons:

  • people interpret religious teachings in different ways
  • sacred texts give conflicting teachings
  • social and cultural traditions may be confused with religious practice

For example, the Laws of Manu teaches:

The father protects the woman in childhood, the husband protects her in youth, the children protect her in old age, a woman should never be independent.Laws of Manu

Some sacred texts and the tradition of Shaktism portray female strength and power.

In Devi Mahatmyam it states:

Devi Chandika easily cut into pieces the men and all their weapons. With no sign of strain on her face and with the gods praising her, she threw her own weapons over their bodies.Devi Mahatmyam 2.49

Quotes like this are used by some Hindus to support the idea that women are as strong as, or perhaps even stronger than, men. Others refer to the popular Shivshakti image, which portrays male and female aspects of God as halves of one body.

Some Hindus would say that the focus on atman in Hindu teaching means that gender should not even feature in how we view people, because only bodies have a gender, an atman does not.

The social and cultural traditions in many Hindu communities, like most other societies around the world, tend to favour men over women. Some Hindus have worked very hard to bring about equality for women where it does not exist.

The ideals of the roles of men and women for many Hindus come from deities such as Rama and Sita.

Swami Vivekananda encouraged all women to 'be Sita' but also reminded everyone the people who worship Sita cannot do other than respect and adore all women.