Woman, according to Vedic civilization – they are not recommended [to have] freedom. They should be taken care just like children are taken care of. You cannot give independence to the children. Then it is not good for them. Similarly, woman also should be taken care of. They should not be given freedom. That is not good for them.
A vital role of women is to not simply bear children but to themselves be religious and of pure consciousness, and to unite with their similarly virtuous husbands so as to bring forth good progeny that will enhance human society and help prevent it from degrading. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (1.40), unprotected women become victims of unscrupulous men, and thus varṇasaṅkara (bad children) are born, and the whole civilization is spoiled. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport to this verse is:
Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity, and spiritual progress in life. The varṇāśrama religion’s principles were so designed that the good population would prevail in society for the general spiritual progress of state and community. Such population depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. Therefore, both children and women require protection by the elder members of the family. By being engaged in various religious practices, women will not be misled into adultery. According to Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy. So the different family traditions of religious activities should always engage them, and thus their chastity and devotion will give birth to a good population eligible for participating in the varṇāśrama system. On the failure of such varṇāśrama-dharma, naturally the women become free to act and mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population. Irresponsible men also provoke adultery in society, and thus unwanted children flood the human race at the risk of war and pestilence.
Śrīla Prabhupāda further elaborated on this theme in his purport to verse 5.2.21 of Śrīmād-Bhāgavatam:
Bhagavad-gītā (1.40) declares, strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya jāyate varṇa-saṅkaraḥ: when women are polluted, varṇa-saṅkara, unqualified children, are generated, and when the varṇa-saṅkara population increases, the entire world becomes hellish. Therefore, according to Manu-saṁhitā, a woman needs a great deal of protection in order to remain pure and chaste so that her children can be fully engaged for the benefit of human society.
Śrīla Prabhupāda described how the policy of keeping girls unmarried leads to their exploitation:
It is a regular policy that girls may remain unmarried, and the drunkards and the meateaters may take advantage of the prostitution. This is the policy. They have no sympathy. So many hundreds and thousands of innocent girls – they’re like children. And they’re exposed to prostitution. They have no shelter. Now these girls who are with us – they’re feeling that we are giving some shelter.
While presiding over a wedding, Śrīla Prabhupāda offered other reasons why women require protection:
The whole idea is that woman requires protection. They are very innocent, the weaker sex. They should not be given freedom. That is very dangerous. Just like a child cannot be given freedom; it is dangerous. If I give a child freedom – “All right, you cross this road” – that means his life is at risk. Similarly, women are the weaker sex. Artificially, don’t try to become one with man; that is not possible. That is not possible. Better to remain protected by man. In childhood a girl is protected by the father; in youth she is protected by the husband; and in old age she is protected by the elderly sons. This is the three stages of woman. There is no fourth stage. That is nice. So this system – the husband taking charge of the young girl, husband and wife in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – it is very nice life. Introduce this. Everyone will be happy.
Also: “Women are self-interested by nature, and therefore they should be protected by all means so that their natural inclination to be too self-interested will not be manifested.” Nevertheless, being protected does not mean being micromanaged:
No independence means they are well-protected. No independence does not meant that she has no independence to act. No, she has got, but under protection. Just like there are some nations still now – protectorate. America is protecting. America is a big nation, and protecting another, small nation. That does not mean they have no independence. They are also independent. They are acting like that. But because [they are] weaker, they should be given protection.
Women are generally not only physically weaker than men but are also “very prone to be misled.” Once while lecturing in a university in Australia, I mentioned that women should be protected, and at the end a female student rather skeptically asked me, “Why do women need to be protected?” and I answered, “From lusty men.” She got the point. As Śrīla Prabhupāda explained, a sixteen-year-old boy can travel all over the world, but it is very difficult for a sixteen-year-old girl to do so.
Women complain about rape, but they will move about by themselves, and often dressed in a manner that is calculated specifically to attract men. Nowadays it is not uncommon in the big cities of India that unaccompanied women are on the streets in the middle of the night – which was unimaginable even only a few years ago. Nor are they likely to be prostitutes. For instance, they could be going to or returning from shift work in a call center or a hospital. But the freedom of women to wander alone in public at any time means that they cannot be properly protected, and an increase of rape is inevitable. And what to speak of kidnapping. The pronounced upsurge in human trafficking and sex slavery (both of which mainly victimize females) could be curbed immediately if women would submit to restrictions that proscribe their venturing alone outside the home. Indeed, such crimes are so widespread and so atrocious as to themselves warrant a serious case for the legal implementation of such restrictions. Better that women be controlled than be subject to such terrible risk.
Women especially need assistance and protection during the later stages of pregnancy, when they are physically hampered; during the great strain of childbirth and the required several weeks of recovery thereafter; and when they have young children, whom they must constantly care for. In traditional societies, wherein “the natural ambition of a girl to possess not only more than one child but at least half a dozen” is not crushed by artificial propaganda, most of the life of a woman would be centered around child-bearing and rearing, and the question of her need to be protected does not arise.
And after her child-bearing period, a woman must undergo menopause, another potentially difficult time that can last several years. The body undergoes considerable hormonal changes and the mind can become quite disturbed. Women need help, care, and protection during this challenging period, which they can best negotiate within the shelter of a long-established marriage. Another significant kind of protection that most women need is the emotional support of a man, without which they tend to feel insecure and thus dissatisfied or dysfunctional – even to the point of becoming a feminist. Often it is seen that women who are superficially renunciants try nevertheless to cozy up to a man (usually a renunciant) whom they admire; they cannot forswear their need for male shelter. Undoubtedly, this need for male protection is a major reason why formal renunciation for women is mostly discouraged within Vedic culture, wherein women are glorified for being chaste, not for being renounced. A man becomes glorious if he renounces family life for the sake of spiritual realization, and thus becomes a genuine sannyasi. But such renunciation is not the norm for women. Śrīla Prabhupāda noted:
A female is never awarded the order of sannyāsa. Because a female is never considered independent and sannyāsa was never awarded to any female in the past by the great ācāryas like Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja, etc. The female sannyasis are to be immediately understood as pretenders or prostitutes.
Despite all this, feminist women absurdly oppose their need to be protected, considering it an offense, or as being “patronized” or “treated as a child.” In so doing, they not only disconnect with reality, they also deny to men their natural role as protectors of women. By rejecting the good will of men, feminists inadvertently (and in contradiction to their stated aims) leave little but sexual attraction to factor in male-female relationships. They also contribute to the overall decreased safety even of women who do not agree with their theories.
Reproduced with permission from the book Women: Mothers and Masters by Bhakti Vikasa Swami.