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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 10, March 9, 2024

Worship The Constitution, Rather than Books of Religion | Vijay Kumar

Saturday 9 March 2024, by Vijay Kumar


Message on International Women’s Day from a Practicing Feminist - March 8, 2024

Though I am a male, I have been advocating for women’s liberation and empowerment from a long time.

All religions subordinated the women’s status. The Constitution of India, promulgated on 26th January 1950, was the first bold and principled document to uplift women — not only through the guarantee of equality embodied in Article 14 of the Constitution – but also from sub-clause (3) of Article 15 which enshrines a positive mandate for the Parliament and the State Legislatures to enact special provisions for women and children, and also in form of social aspirations contained in the directive principles. Thus, the Constitution of India, through a complete departure from past practices and religious beliefs, introduced a liberating and emancipatory model of modernity.

It is the framing of the Constitution that marked the complete rupture from the oppressive patriarchal and hideous hierarchal social structure. It is true that entrenched patriarchy and hierarchy are prevailing even today, but this requires more devotion and fidelity to the Constitution than going to the temples and other religious institutions and observing fast on the day of festivals. Take away the guarantee of equality from the Constitution, and the women would be reduced to be slaves and chattel.

The emancipation of women, apart from being indispensible component of equality, is a sine quo non for peaceful social and political order.

As all religions subordinate the status of women, they should, individually as well as collectively, endeavour to disabuse of unjust and iniquitous stranglehold of religion.

I would conclude with an inspiring example of redoubtable Madam Marie Curie. She was born in Poland and went to Paris for higher studies, where she met Pierre Curie and got married to him. Both Marie Curie and Pierre Curie were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 for the discovery of Radioactivity. In fact, the Nobel Committee, in the age of deeply ingrained patriarchy, excluded her name, but her husband refused to take Nobel prize on the ground that it was their joint discovery and then Nobel Committee reluctantly awarded the prize to both Marie Curie and her husband.

Both Pierre Curie and Marie Curie sired two girl babies, Irene in 1904 and Eve in 1906. But soon thereafter, Pierre Curie died in a road accident. Despite the death of her husband, and being saddled with the arduous task of bringing up two daughters, Marie Curie was awarded a second Nobel Prize in 1911 in Chemistry for the discovery of Radium and Polonium. It is her discovery that led to the treatment of the Cancer. But the research on Radium entailed the proximity with it and that adversely affected her health, and Marie Curie, eventually, died in 1934.

Her elder daughter Irene Curie followed in the footsteps of her mother and became a great scientist and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935. Younger daughter Eve Currie had an interest in Literature and went on to become a great writer and was awarded the Pulitzer award – the most sought-after American Award for writers and is regarded as equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the US. In 1965, the younger daughter Eve was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Thus, the four Nobel awards were conferred on one family and the entire credit goes to Marie Curie.

The message of this inspiring story is that today’s women should follow the example of Marie Curie rather than wasting their precious talent, time and energy on worship and fasting.

Therefore, I would urge all women to worship the Constitution, at least more reverently, than their religious pantheons.

(Author: Vijay Kumar, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India; also the author of a recent book “The Theory of Basic Structure: Saviour of Constitution and Democracy”)

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