Deepa Mehta, one of our finest film-makers, was asked why she thought the attitude towards women in India is so depressingly ugly. “Patriarchy,” she retorted succinctly. “We’ve always felt that the girl child is worth nothing and should in fact be aborted even before she is born. The boy can do no wrong. If the girl is treated as a sub-human, or the boy is raised to believe he can do no wrong, then this is what will happen.”
But India was not always this way. So what did happen?
My own elliptical quest for answers led me to partially blame the so-called sage Manu, ancient teacher of sacred rites and laws and author of the Manava Dharma-shastra (dates for the creation of this text vary all the way from 1500 BCE to 500 AD) for callously tossing the Indian gender ball down the hill. Some say Manu compiled the laws at the request of ten great sages following a great flood; others claim he was given the sacred laws by Brahma the Creator himself, rendering the Manusmriti divine. Continue reading