Delhi High Court judge Justice Prathiba M Singh has opined that the Indian women “are a blessed lot” since scriptures like Manusmriti give a very respectable position to them, Bar and Bench reported.
“I really think we are a blessed lot of women in India and the reason for that is our scriptures have always given a very respectable position for women and as Manusmriti itself says that if you don’t respect and honour women, all the pooja path that you may do has no meaning,” Justice Prathiba Singh said.
“So I think our ancestors and Vedic scriptures knew very well how to respect women,” the judge added.
Speaking at the inaugural session of a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on the subject ‘Facing the unseen barriers: Addressing Challenges faced by Women in Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Mathematics (STEM)’ on Wednesday, Justice Singh said the Asian countries do much better at respecting women.
“I can tell you that in fact Asian countries do much better in respecting women in households, in workplaces, in society, in general and I think that is because of the cultural and religious background that we have that our scriptures tell us,” she said, Bar and Bench reported.
Asserting India is much more progressive about women being in leadership roles, Justice Singh said: “I really think we are lucky to be in a country like India where India is actually much, much more progressive about women being in leadership roles.”
“I am not saying we need to ignore the violence and the bad things that happen to women at a lower level, but yes at the higher level, in the middle level, we are seeing women growing,” she added.
Opinion | One cannot be a feminist in India if you are not fighting the Manusmriti
The judge also advised the working women to strengthen core values of the Indian family system and to live in joint families so as to receive greater support for their careers. Justice Singh said that the joint family system should continue since its benefits are far greater than those of nuclear families.
Emphasizing that men in joint families promote women since they are older and wiser, the judge said: “That way, we share our resources. Sharing is caring, we do not need to be selfish to say ‘I need my time, I need this.’ You can be a little more adjusting and compromising, but the benefits of a joint family system are far more than what in a nuclear family.”
“When there are more people who can take away your tension, who can share your problems with you, the stress also reduces quite a bit. So larger families is the way to go, especially for women who want to have careers,” she added.
Justice Singh also said that women should never seek sympathy. “Don’t ever go and say my child is ill, I want to go home, I want to do this, I want to do that. You can always take an off, but you don’t need to give the reason. Just say it is a personal difficulty,” she said.
Commenting on women in the legal profession, Justice Singh spoke about the biases and taboos surrounding women who choose litigation. She underlined that their parents fret that no one would marry them.
Justice Singh, however, said that women lawyers make the best spouses, since they understand the difficulties faced in litigating disputes.
Slamming Justice Singh over her remarks on Manusmriti, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) general secretary Annie Raja in a statement registered her strong disagreement.
“Her reading of the Manusmriti willfully chooses to ignore the institutionalised prescriptions of the absolute disciplining and punishing of women bodies and ideas. This is in addition to the despicable ascriptive norms of caste that is encoded in the said text,” the NFIW said in the statement, PTI reported.
CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat said as a High Court judge, Justice Singh is duty bound to uphold the Constitution of India regardless of her personal views.
“The scriptures she has quoted are in many sections directly in flagrant opposition to the Constitution and the rights granted to women of India and especially Dalit and Adivasi women by the Constitution,” she said in a statement.