Friday, December 23, 2005

Liberated society has confused itself

THE SPEAKING TREE: Take Cue from Panchkanyas On Women's Liberty
BAL MUKUND SINHA The Times of India Friday, Dec 23, 2005
The issue of premarital sex is being debated fiercely in the name of social morality. Tamil film star Khushboo had said in an interview that women should know how to protect themselves from pregnancy and AIDS if they chose to have premarital sex and that educated men should not expect their spouses to be virgins at the time of marriage. These statements created a furore. Political parties organised protests, police cases were registered against Khushboo and she had to render a public apology. The issue did not end there. Celebrities like actress Suhasini, tennis star Sania Mirza and Formula One racer Narain Karthikeyan spoke out in support of Khushboo's remarks. On the one hand there are moralists who cry that statements of this kind by celebrities would tear the fabric of social morality and expose a whole new generation to risky behaviour. On the other hand there are those who cite the Kamasutra and Khajuraho to defend free discussion and discourse on sex. Is sex — premarital, extramarital or otherwise — an issue? Remember the Panchkanyas: Tara, Kunti, Mandodari, Ahalya and Draupadi.
They are so exalted in our shastras that many believe that the sheer remembrance and pronouncement of their names can take you closer to divinity. Everyone of them had either premarital or extramarital sex or married another man after the death of their husbands. These women were put on a pedestal because they expressed their rights as women and as individuals. It is for an individual to decide when to have sex and with whom to have sex. It is an entirely personal affair, a natural right which no one can take away from her. There is the popular legend of the great love between Radha and Krishna. Radha was married to Govardhan but had the deepest love for Krishna. According to Puranic folklore, Radha once caught her husband spying on her while she and Krishna were making love. Radha reacted by hitting Govardhan and in the ensuing scuffle, her husband died. Repenting the loss of life of her husband, Radha later got back his life through prayer. The message is clear: No one has the right to spy on another or question an individual's love choice. Love and sex are personal choices between consenting adults. Why, then, do we want to hear from Khushboo, Sania or Suhasini about their sexual preferences?
Let them enjoy the right to their wisdom. The day a woman chooses to celebrate her decision and share her joy with society, she might also choose to go in for the social ritual of marriage. Our sages had given the deepest thought to these issues and they have narrated these in our shastras. It is a so-called liberated society that has confused itself over nothing. Traditional societies like ours do need to sacrifice some of this liberty to keep societal structure intact. Hence the ethics, morality and regulations. But then women, too, understand these social obligations as much as the rest of society. Why do we want to ask for their views and then go about criticising them? Every woman has certain inalienable rights, as long as they don't impinge on the rights of others.

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