The struggle to bring women’s rights back into equality with men’s is one that is happening in every culture that I know of all around the world. There’s still a long way to go in both India and America for women to have autonomy over their own lives, to have the choices that men have, and to be treated as human beings.
The saddest thing about this to me is that traditional Hindu culture had more equality for women than current culture does anywhere. Think about the word “equality” for a moment. It doesn’t mean better than, above, more than. Women are not trying to take anything away from men in the fight to have their choices be respected.
Yet there are men who seem to be very threatened by women being allowed to have access to the same choices they do. I saw this particularly heartbreakingly in a Facebook group a few days ago. A man posted an article (and actually this article is slightly more complete) about women protesting at Kumbh Mela and his comment on it was a rant about rights and equality for women being a tool of Western oppression trying to change other people’s cultures.
First of all, I read the article about the situation at Kumbh Mela and it seemed very reasonable for the women to be protesting. It is a group of sadhu women (sadhvi), which is not something you see every day. But why shouldn’t women have the option to become ascetics if that’s the path to God their heart desires? However, this akhara of all-female ascetics might be the first of its kind. Most (perhaps all but this one) sadhu groups are run by men. This group of women was prevented from dipping into the Ganga during the festival. Because male sadhus felt that it went against custom for a woman to lead an akhara.
Again, women are not asking to take over anything. One female-led group of holy people and you’re going to freak out? One? What’s it to you to allow women the freedom you already enjoy? What could be more dharmic than equality? Think about if the tables were turned. If you were denied an opportunity only because you were a man, would that be okay?