Women in Jainism

Women in Jainism are treated within the same code of ethics as that is prescribed for men. Jainism advocates the code of ethics comprising of the five virtues of nonviolence (AHIMSA), truth (SATYA), non-stealing (ACHAURYA), purity of body and mind (BRAHMACHARYA) and non-possessiveness (APARIGRAH). These codes of ethics are same for men and women. As per Jainism both men and women are supposed to play their common roles of helping each other, working for the common welfare of all humanity, and protecting the environment. Each is responsible for his/her moral conduct.

Jainism considers men and women as equals. In reality because of the gender stereotyping that has taken place for thousands of years in a patriarchal society and the inherent biological differences between men and women, the roles prescribed for men and women are different especially in a social and cultural setup. Nevertheless, men and women are equal in the eyes of Jainism for the concerns of welfare of their children and family and the roles played by them are equally important. Due to present circumstances, the roles of women and men are changing to some extent, but this does not change the general view of Jainism regarding their equality. Jainism included women in the religious practice in the form of nuns from its earliest days of inception.

Further to understand the role and status of women in Jainism we need to also study the following topics in detail

1. Mahavira’s teachings and its forbearing on women
2. Jainism and the roles played by men and women
3. Equality of men and women and Jainism
4. The concept of purity and impurity of women in Jainism
5. Nuns in Jainism
6. Women’s femaleness and spiritual inequality
7. History of Jainism and history of Women and Jainism
8. Jain Achars or duties for the householder and women’s role in this context

Women in Jainism: Women considered as unequal and impure

We must also know that somewhere down the line questions were raised regarding the spiritual equality of men and women in Jainism as a religion. In later times there were many who believed in the spiritual inequality of women when compared to men and women’s femaleness was considered as a hindrance for spiritual growth and religious life. There were some who believed to the extent that women were in fact impure by their natural disposition. This kind of attitudinal changes is nothing new. This had happened in almost all the major religions of the world as they had evolved.

Article by Sanjay Nair

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Women and equality Jainism and women Jain religion Spiritual status of women