Lies and Big Feet – an independent publishing venture; we support the following literary move.
The gesture towards new methods of reading:
The definition of what we read as texts within the sacred domain of literary studies needs to be questioned and if we do so – a whole new world opens up. What we consider as infallible, sacred religious texts which comprise of “revealed knowledge” is actually a compilation of many textual variants and changes must have occurred in them through centuries, as they were handed down through generations. What prevents us from re-reading these unchartered textual territories, as doing so will actually allow a socio-epistemic shift to take place.
The unholy alliance of literary studies, religious texts and legal theory.
CEDAW AND THE LEGITIMACY OF RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS: towards ending misogyny in institutionalised religion.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, and can be seen as an international bill of rights for women. All countries that have accepted the Convention are compelled to follow up with a series of measures that would end all forms of discrimination against women. Any country that has ratified or acceded to the Convention, is legally and morally obliged to ensure that women are not discriminated against, or oppressed.
If the purpose of CEDAW is to end all acts of discrimination against women by organizations, then we would be compelled to include organizations that propagate religion in the public domain as mostly and often, these religious bodies propound theology that is comfortably couched in misogyny, thereby validating a heightened sense of machismo as being endemic to human behaviour. Undoubtedly and what is obvious is that any nation that is a participant to CEDAW is legally bound to examine and interrogate the role that is played by these religious organizations in normalising misogyny and in also disseminating these ideas in the public domain on a daily basis.
Feminist scholars can cry themselves hoarse in trying to understand the nature of institutionalised misogyny that permeates all aspects of civil, social and religious life and has been seen as the status quo since times immemorial. On similar lines, development theorists and economists have tried to address how poverty works in order to alleviate it. But if we refuse to acknowledge that religion which is the bedrock of all societies- is the perpetrator in enabling this kind of gender-class oppression – then it is a losing battle that feminists and economists wage as they analyse the origins of social inequalities.
Within the Indian context, any institution/organization that propagates the Hindu religious texts – is complicit in acts of perpetuating misogyny in an institutionalised manner. Why is it that feminists and economists and development scholars never analyse how these religious institutions work in creating a social order which entrenches misogyny in the psyche of all citizens? If India is a signatory to CEDAW, should not the nation also ensure that all organizations – religious and secular – be not involved in any form of discrimination against women?
CEDAW IN THE NON-HINDU CONTEXT.
ALL COUNTRIES WHICH ARE SIGNATORIES TO CEDAW are legally bound to adhere to its rules that aim towards undoing all oppressive and discriminatory practises against women. The implication is that no institution – secular or religious – can propound and propagate any misogyny ridden dictums (theological or otherwise) in the public domain
If we consider how religious institutions of Christianity and Islam continue with propagating theology which in no way attempts to undo the underlying misogyny that permeates all aspects of these religious institutions – then we are compelled o question as to why these realms of religion are never interrogated
If a country is a signatory to CEDAW, then the Judiciary of that nation is legally bound to closely monitor the nature of what happens in the domain of religion, and what exactly are these religious institutions propagating. It would be erroneous to conflate the theological aspects of those religions with what would essentially comprise temporal social modes of being that are also seen as comprising “revealed knowledge”. Religious authorities need to be chastised by the Judiciary of all the nations that are signatories to CEDAW as they propound theology that does not interrogate the underlying misogyny. Subsequently, these religious institutions need to rewrite these canonical religious texts ensuring that the flagrant misogyny is erased; not doing so would be a legal misdemeanour as it would comprise a violation of CEDAW.
REWRITING THE BIBLE.
Christian and Islamic theologians need to be willing to accept the fact that the Biblical tales of Creation and the Bible itself – all refer to partial versions of what is “revealed knowledge”. Therefore, they also need to be willing to revise these texts. For example, the stories about the Garden of Eden, the Fall from Grace and the role of women in bringing in Sin to the world – need to be rewritten. The Garden of Eden can refer to a period when mankind was aware of their spiritual connections with Absolute Consciousness or Brahman, and the Fall from Grace as being a condition where they lost this awareness forever. Rewriting the Bible in this manner would completely erase the rampant misogyny which forms the crux of, and is a dominant interpretative paradigm, within Christianity and Islam.
ARE RELIGIOUS TEXTS ILLEGAL AS THEY CONSTITUTE HATE SPEECH?
The purpose would be to open up the realm of religious discourse into the public domain of the secular; if we take these texts into our hands – then, we should be able to re-write them and do away with those parts that are misogynous/ caste-ist and are fundamentally unconstitutional. We need to petition to the governments of our respective countries to ensure that religious institutions comply with the laws of the land, and if the State is a signatory to CEDAW – the nation complies with it and does not allow any institution (religious or otherwise) to violate it.