-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani
A varied range of opinions about what type of education should be given to Indian women come from many quarters. Women however are not ready to accept the opinions of the reactionaries. They are only ready to accept progressive ideas.
“Indian women should continue to live without any opinions or freedoms of their own. In the spirit of the old saying ‘Whether stone or reed, it is my husband’, they should be sincerely committed to their husband and always think of what is best for him and yield children and raise them. This is the only way to a cultured life for Indian women. If they breach this, their respect in social life will get affected. This will lead to losing their pativrata (devotion to husband). The Indian culture will be spoiled. Hence it is enough if you provide education about family and religion to women,” so say the reactionaries. We don’t have to pay heed to men with this sort of opinion. Given their selfishness, we cannot expect any other better opinions from them. Any radical thought would surely endanger their selfishness.
But if women also talk like this themselves, then we should be surprised. And we must consider if there is some sinister plan behind this.
A few days ago in Lyceum Club in London, during the annual day of Bombay Inter-Cultural Women’s Association, the head of The Madras Women’s Christian College, Ms Eleanor McDougall made an announcement. She said,
“It cannot be said that giving higher education to women will result in a positive outcome. Indian women are the best in faith and the strongest in willpower. They are very attached to their families. If they lose interest in the family, the value of life in the Indian society will go down. Hence, along with higher education, they should also be taught the highest values of Christian beliefs. If not, education will only bring evil to them.”
We cannot but pity the fact that even a woman like Ms McDougall from a progressive country had spoken like this. But given her supposed genuine concern over the social life of Indian women, we must assume that she has some sinister motive behind saying such things. And the motive is very clear in her words. They are, “With higher education, Christian values are to be taught.” Thus, this is clearly an agenda of a Chrisitan missionary to spread Christianity over here in India.
Just like how Ms McDougall thinks that Christian Education is important for Indian women in higher education, the Indian religious conservatives think that Hindu religious education is important for Indian women.
But we deny both these opinions. It is very wrong to think that women deserve only family life and are capable of raising children alone. As long as this belief exists, women can live only as slaves, that is, subservient to men. If women want to live an equal life with men, it is very important that they have the right to choose to pursue an education or a job as per their desire and talent. We believe that they should not be even aware of something as ‘religious education’. The men who are learned of religious texts remain enslaved, cowardly, superstitious and without self-belief. That’s why we are doing propaganda to uproot religion completely. In such a situation how can we endorse views that say women should be given religious education?
Even if they are not given religious education, through questioning and by observing practices, we can deduce the condition of the religious-minded Indian women in our society. Who can refuse the fact that it is only religion that keeps our women enslaved, backward, superstitious, ritualistic and cowardly? We cannot even slightly endorse the opinion that suggests women be given religious education.
“Like men, women should be given training to become physically strong. Women should be encouraged to be fit and be given training in weapons. They should have all the means and strength to protect themselves from savage men who are sexual predators. If needed, they should also join the army to fight the enemies.” This is how progressive minds think. Even women endorse such thoughts and opinions. When the world thinks this way, how can anyone claim that it is no use to give higher education to women? We acknowledge the fact that education in the present times is quite terrible. Education only helps one secure a job as a peon, it doesn’t help one acquire life skills. Henceforth, it is crucial to change the present education system and introduce a new one, without inculcating a belief in religion that makes people enslaved and cowardly, one that helps in learning life skills and fosters a spirit of equality between men and women.
First published in Kudiarasu on 17-7-1932.
Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 5: Pennurimai, Paagam (1). [Periyar Repository 5: Women’s Rights Part (1)]. Fourth Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 179-182.