Justice BK Somasekhar Enquiry Commission into the incidents of attacks on certain places of worship in Dakshina Kannada and other districts of Karnataka in the month of September 2008. Certain Hindus, Praveen Reddy and Others, submitted a questionnaire before the Honorable Commission seeking answers from the Christians for their theological and legal questions pertaining to the Christian faith. This was brought to the attention of SAN recently and has been informed that the Honorable Commission granted extension of time to answer those. Though not the original recipients, Jerry Thomas and G Bibu answered those questions and submitted their answers, both soft copy and hard copy, before the Honorable Commission. They have also submitted a questionnaire for these Hindu friends to answer.
The Memorialists: 1. Put to death any woman who practices magic. [Exodus 22-18.]
2. But if the charge is true and there is no proof that the girl was a virgin, then they are to take her out to the entrance of her fathers house, where the men of her city are to stone her to death. She has done a shameful thing among our people by having intercourse before she was married, while she was still living in her fathers houses. In this way you will get rid of this evil. [Deuteronomy 22-20]
3. Women are not to wear mens clothing and men are not to wear womens clothing: the Lord your God hates people who do such things. [Deuteronomy 22-5]
(A) Clarify whether or not these verses are in direct confrontation with the Article 51-A (e) of the Constitution of India which required renouncement of practices derogatory to the dignity of women?
The Respondents:Article 51.(A-E) of the Indian Constitution requires to refrain from practices derogatory to the dignity of women. Is it derogatory to punish women offenders? Does the Indian Penal Code exempt women from punishments, lest it amount to a derogatory practice against them?
Is it not more to the honor of women than to their derogation that vices like prostitution be effectively checked by such penalties, as may safeguard the dignity and purity among women? Or do we let them loose and unchecked to do what they will, lest we be acting in derogation of their dignity? Is that why the practices like the devadasi system were unchecked in India, until the intervention of civilization? Were such practices more to their honor than to their derogation? Was the curtailing of such practices more to their derogation, than to their honor?
(A) There are several pornographic carvings upon several temple walls which are overtly derogatory to the dignity and honor of women. Will the Hindus permit to scrape out or bury down these carvings and paintings, as may be in keeping with Article 51(A-E) of the Indian Constitution? Will they tender an unconditional apology to the women of this country for having allowed the existence of such pornos for so long, to the detriment of their dignity and honor?
(B) Will the Hindus edit out those portions in the Manu Smrithi and other Puranas, the things that are derogatory to the dignity of women, so as to conform to Article 51(A-E) of the Indian Constitution?
(B) If you are not able to edit Bible to suit the present times, is there a need to propagate Bible in accordance with the injunctions contained in Bible?
We have already clarified that the scope, relevance and application of the Old Testament passages. We would be answering the specific questions in the following questions.
(C) Are these verses relevant today and deserve to exist in Bible?
In the moral application, these verses are still relevant for today and deserve to be very much a part of the Holy Bible.
Let us explain this by taking one of the verses cited by the Memorialists-Deuteronomy 22: 20 in the overall context of the Mosaic Law and of the New Covenant.
Preferential Treatment for Woman
Exodus 22: 16 -17 “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”
Here, the Bible makes man (and not woman) as the enticer. Also, it is the man who has to make the restitution. Woman is considered as innocent though she was enticed by the man. Further, there is no choice for man as to whether he should get married to the girl. The choice is only given for girl’s family.
The wording of this law ‘utterly refuses’ seems to intend that the man has to persuade by all his best means to convince the girl’s father to get married to the girl.
It is to be noted that any woman who has been enticed by a man can straight go and tell it to her father and get married to the man.
Deuteronomy 22: 25- 27 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you SHALL DO NOTHING TO the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
Here again, there is no punishment for a helpless rape victim.
Now we come to the passage that the Memorialists have quoted. We quote the entire passage so that we get the context of the verse.
Deuteronomy 22: 13-21
“If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity ar
e not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.”
We note that as the verse 13 explicitly states this law was intended to protect women from being dishonored by vicious men. Note that this law also assumes that such charges are generally brought by a man who ‘detests’ his wife rather than any misconduct of woman. This law also ensures that the woman is no longer treated with contempt if such false charges are brought.
Now what if the charge is correct? As we have already noted there was a high preferential treatment for virgin woman in the Mosaic Law. The law protected the woman in a love-relationship before the marriage as well as in a helpless rape situation. So the only possibility left was the case of adultery.
And we note that the punishment for adultery was the same for both men and women in the Mosaic Law. For this, we again quote the same chapter cited by the Memorialists:
Deuteronomy 22: 23- 24 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.”
The conclusion is that the woman had a highly preferential treatment in the sight of Mosaic Law where she is presumed to be more righteous than the man. In the case of punishment, woman was never badly treated than man.
We further note both men and women are considered equal as per the creation story and redemption message of the Holy Bible.
Genesis 1: 27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Galatians 3: 28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Moral of the passage from the Holy Scripture quoted by Memorialists in context is: Though men and women are equal in creation and redemption, in the sight of the law women deserves to have preferential treatment.
No human being of high moral values will have ever a doubt of the relevance and importance of such passages in the Holy Scripture.
The Bhagavad Gita 9: 32 “For, O son of Prithâ! even those who are of sinful birth women, Vaisyas; and Sûdras likewise, resorting to me, attain the supreme goal. What then (need be said of) holy Brâhmanas and royal saints who are (my) devotees? Coming to this transient unhappy 1 world, worship me. (Place your) mind on me, become my devotee, my worshipper; reverence me, and thus making me your highest goal, and devoting your self to abstraction, you will certainly come to me.
Note that women are included among those of ‘sinful birth’ unlike Brahmins and saints.
Manusmiriti 9: 16-18 “Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of creatures laid in them at the creation, to be such, (every) man should most strenuously exert himself to guard them. (When creating them) Manu allotted to women (a love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct. For women no (sacramental) rite (is performed) with sacred texts, thus the law is settled; women (who are) destitute of strength and destitute of (the knowledge of) Vedic texts, (are as impure as) falsehood (itself), that is a fixed rule.
Here, in the creation story, women are supposedly impure and impure as of falsehood itself.
( C) According to the Bhagavad Gita and Manusmiriti women should be discriminated as they are among those who are ‘of sinful birth’ and have been allotted ‘impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct’ by the ‘immemorial rule of conduct’ which is fixed rule. According to the Holy Bible, though men and women are created equal and redeemed equally, women deserve preferential treatment. Which one do you think is of more relevant for today? Which one deserves to be in any religious scriptures?
(D) Bible is dear to Christians. How do Christian ladies and girls wear boys dresses and thereby violate the sacred tenets of Bible? What is the stand of your Church in this regard?
The Holy Bible is certainly dear to Christians. We have not come across any incident where the Christian ladies and girls wore boy’s dresses. In every incident we have come across, when Christian women go to shop to buy dresses, they buy the dresses from Ladies section.
If the question is about the elderly Christian women in Kerala who wear Chatta (a white top) and Mundu, probably the Memorialists are confused because of the similarity between Men’s Mundu and Women’s Mundu. But no one who understands the cultural context ever accused of these elderly Christian women wearing men’s dress just because those Mundu was similar to those of men.
If the question is about Christian woman wearing Shalwar kameez which might look same to men’s dhoti kurta for an outsider, again it is the lack of cultural understanding of the Memorialists. Such distinctions are always maintained whether it is for the Chatta and Mundu, Shalwar Kameez or trousers and shirts too. The Memorialists has to only to go to a dress shop to understand this.
So the question of Christian ladies and girls wearing boys’ dresses are without evidence and is faulty as the question ‘have you stopped beating your wife’.
Manusmiriti 2: 21-24:
“That (country) which (lies) between the Himavat and the Vindhya (mountains) to the east of Prayaga and to the west of Vinasana (the place where the river Sarasvati disappears) is called Madhyadesa (the central region). But (the tract) between those two mountains (just mentioned), which (extends) as far as the eastern and the western oceans, the wise call Aryavarta (the country of the Aryans). That land where the black antelope naturally roams, one must know to be fit for the performance of sacrifices; (the tract) different from that (is) the country of the Mlekkhas (barbarians). Let twice-born men seek to dwell in those (above-mentioned countries); but a Sudra, distressed for subsistence, may reside anywhere.
(D) Sanatana dharma is very dear to the Hindus especially to the ‘upper castes’. According to this ‘immemorial rule of conduct’ of Manu, twice born men are not supposed to dwell outside the boundaries defined by Manu which obviously does not include USA or UK. Then why are many of these twice born men rushing to USA and UK at the first opportune given to them?
(E) Manusmiriti 4: 61 “Let him not dwell in a country where the rulers are Sudras, nor in one which is surrounded by unrighteous men, nor in one which has become subject to heretics, nor in one swarming with men of the lowest castes.”
Does this mean that Brahmins will go out of Uttar Pradesh where currently an Honorable Dalit Woman is the ruler, Chief Minister?
(E) Is Bible to be followed selectively or according to convenience or hypocritically or in toto?
The Holy Bible has to be carefully read in its entire context and followed in toto as it demands. It should never be selectively quoted out of its context and falsely accused of anything that it does not demand or mean.
(F) Clarify, if the immemorial rule of conduct of Hinduism meant to be followed selectively, or according to convenience or hypocritically?
(F) Clarify did not the above practice lead to the notorious witch hunting, burning of women in large numbers in places where Christianity was predominant?The Respondents:
We have already clarified the scope, relevance and application of the Old Testament passages. However, if there were any Christians who had hypocritically and selectively followed the Bible leading to burning of women in large numbers, we denounce such hypocritical Christians.
Rig Veda 10: 18: 7-8 “Let these unwidowed dames with noble husbands adorn themselves with fragrant balm and unguent. Decked with fair jewels, tearless, free from sorrow, first let the dames go up to where he lieth. Rise, come unto the world of life, O woman: come, he is lifeless by whose side thou liest. Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion, who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover.
(G) Clarify if the Rig Veda was directly responsible for evil Sati System in India?
Manusmiriti 3: 11 “But a prudent man should not marry (a maiden) who has no brother, nor one whose father is not known, through fear lest (in the former case she be made) an appointed daughter (and in the latter) lest (he should commit) sin.
(H) Clarify if such verses are not directly contributing to the bias against women thereby leading to female infanticide and declining sex ratio in India?
(G) Clarify whether practicing magic is such a grave vice that it deserves death penalty?
Magic (sorcery) is definitely a grave vice. We have also clarified the scope, relevance and application of the Old Testament passages for the New Testament times.
(H) Clarify why death penalty is not prescribed for men who practices magic?
Memorialists have to do a better job in reading the entire Holy Bible before they raise such unsound questions. Read the following portions.
Leviticus 20: 27 “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.”
Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.”
(I) Please clarify what peril will befall on humanity if the above tenets are violated?
Since the question is about the humanity and not just about the Hindus, we would like to clarify that majority of the humanity- Christians, Muslims, Jews and humanists- have decisively decided against sorcery considering it as evil or superstition.
However, those who sow evil will surely reap evil.
Continue reading Section III: Answers to the Questions of Hindus