and Infanticide in India
- Baha'i View Point
This statement by Dr. AK Merchant, Vice Chairman,
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bhai's of India was present at the
National religious Leaders Convention on the abolition of Female Feticide
and Infanticide organised by the Indian medical association, the UNICEF,
the National Commission for Women, and the Department of Women and Children,
Ministry of HRD on June 24th 2001. According to Dr. Merchant the 'Baha'i
is the only religion which has never had any instance of Female Feticide
or infanticide because of the religious law of full quality of both men
and women --Chief Editor
Conditions of justice and equity that foster both individual and collective
well- being remain an elusive goal. At one extreme deprivation and despair
afflict vast numbers of the world's peoples, while, at the other, a limited
segment of the human race is enjoying a conscious and unrestrained affluence.
Entrenched patterns of dependency, discrimination, and poverty are accompanied
by great disillusionment with the modern ethos. Recognition of the vital
link between the practical and spiritual aspects of human life leads inevitably
to a reframing of what constitutes well being and of the possible mechanisms
for attaining such well-being. This realization undel1ines the need for
a systematic exploration of the roles that women and men perform for.
the advancement of civilization, as we know it.
The Baha'i teachings provide insight into the reasons for the failure
of a religious community to preserve its pristine purity. They are manifold
but include the following: The lack of a universally accepted source of
authoritative interpretation of the words of the Founder, with the result
that some crucial terms were open to being understood in a variety of
ways, thereby giving rise, in certain instances, to a highly discriminatory
interpretation; the assignment of unwarranted authority to the views of
charismatic religious leaders, who were often unwittingly influenced by
the discriminatory culture from which they arose, and whose words were
given an authority equal to that of the founder; the admission to the
sacred canon of oral traditions, many of which were of questionable validity
and accuracy, and which came to possess an authority equivalent to that
of the Sacred Text; the unjustified generalizations made from the specific
action of the Founder in a particular situation of which all details are
not known; the compromises made to the presentation of the new teachings
to accommodate prevailing cultural views about the inferiority of women,
motivated by the desire to make the religion more palatable to the masses
and thus to increase the number of converts; and the vested interests
of an exclusively male ecclesiastical establishment in preserving its
position assigned to women.
The equality of men and women is an important element in the achievement
of the oneness of the human family. The Baha'i Faith is the first revealed
religion in the entire span of recorded history to have affirmed, as an
integral element of its teachings, not only that the equality of women
and men must be regarded as a spiritual reality, but that this equality
must be expressed in both individual and social practice. The changes
on a personal and social level necessary to make equality an established
reality are far reaching. The practice of equality requires not only basic
changes in attitude and behaviour by both women and men but also a fundamental
alteration to the structure of society, to provide the necessary legal
rights and to provide educational and employment opportunities for women.
A distinguishing feature of the approach to change outlined in the Baha'i
writings is that it fosters the practice of equality by men and women
in such a way as to preserve and indeed strengthen the fundamental unity
of the family and society. The methods employed emphasise cooperation,
mutual encouragement and support, and consultation.
Baha'u'llah, founder prophet of the Baha'i Faith unequivocally asserts
the spiritual equality of women and men. He states, "All should know
Women and men have been will always be equal in the sight of God,"
and He indicates that, "In this Day the Hand of Divine grace hath
removed all distinctions. The servants of God and His handmaidens are
regarded on the same plane."
In the Baha'i writings there are practical provisions for promoting the
equality of women and men, for fostering the development of full partnership,
and for modifying the "harmful attitudes and habits" that stand
in the way of the emancipation of women.
It is indicated that
"women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society
they are a very important element", and calls to attention to the
fact that "Divine Justice demands that the rights of both sexes should
be equally respected since neither is superior to the other in the eyes
of Heaven." These authoritative statements from the Baha'i writing
are regarded by Baha'i is as expressions of the Divine Will; thus Baha
' is regarded it as a religious obligation to heed the calls of these
writings for changes in both attitudes and legal systems to accommodate
this new reality. To deprive women arbitrarily of these rights and privileges,
or to deprive them to even being born or killing them in infancy is both
immoral and unjust, a violation of God's law. It has a detrimental effect
on the society and the individuals responsible for such acts.
The protection of the girl child, and the natural right of the female
embryo to be born and attain full adulthood demands not only adequate
government legislation but also the moral responsibility on the part of
all the strata of the society to act firmly and justly. Then can we transform
the moral and psychological climate, abolish totally the practice of female
foeticide and infanticide in our country, and promote positive attitudes
and behaviour in the individual members and the society at large.
However great the turmoil he period into which humanity is moving will
open to every individual, every institution, and every community on earth
unprecedented opportunities to participate in the writings of the planets
future. "Soon", is Baha'u'llah confident promise, "will
the present day Order be rolled up, and new one spread out in its stead."