Hindu Dharma does not regard sexual intercourse as an evil or sinful act in itself, but an essential and integral aspect of Nature and preservation of Dharma. Enjoying sexual pleasure (kama) is one of the main aims of a householder’s life. However, it must be done responsibly in the larger interests of dharma. Accordingly, some types of sexual conduct and relationships are permissible and conducive to dharma, while some are unlawful, unnatural and sinful and produce sinful consequences.

From this perspective, the law books often leave the decision of establishing sexual relationships to personal choice and will. While married women have an obligation to live righteously and remain faithful to their husbands, men were not subjected to the same standards. They were not completely prohibited from seeking sexual pleasure outside their marriage from free women and consenting maidens who attained puberty. In all such cases, mutual consent is important, and the use of violence or force is strictly prohibited. If maidens were in the care and protection of their fathers and had no freedom to exercise their free will, they were not to be approached or tempted. It is considered unlawful even in Buddhism.

Ancient Hindu laws did not condone men who engaged in forced sex or sexual violence with maidens or unmarried women who attained puberty. While child marriages were common, girl children were not to be sexually violated until they were ready for motherhood since the very purpose of entering a marriage relationship was not to enjoy sexual pleasure but to bear children and continue the lineage.

The law books reflect this. Manusmriti (8.364) prescribes corporal or capital punishment for men who rape maidens or engage in unlawful sexual intercourse with them against their will and without their consent, using force, violence and fear of threat. It states that a man who violates an unwilling maiden shall instantly suffer corporal punishment, while a man who enjoys a willing maiden can be condoned, if his caste is the same as hers. In other cases, he may have to pay a fine or face corporal punishment.

Manu prescribes the following punishments for those who violate the chastity of unmarried women against their will, using force or violence (8.367-370).

If any man through insolence forcibly contaminates a maiden, two of his fingers shall be instantly cut off, and he shall pay a fine of six hundred (panas).

A man of the same caste who defiles a willing maiden shall not suffer the amputation of his fingers, but shall pay a fine of two hundred (panas) in order to deter him from a repetition (of the offense).

A young woman who pollutes another young woman must be fined two hundred panas. She should also pay the double of her nuptial fee and receive ten lashes with a baton.

However, a married woman who pollutes a maiden shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off, and be made to ride through the town on a donkey.

Manu also suggested that those who defile maidens are unworthy of religious honors or rites. No Brahmana should perform funeral rites for such unworthy people (3.164). Even maligning the name of an unmarried girl by laying false accusation upon her character is worthy of punishment (8.225).

Also Read:- Shiv State of Consciousness 

In ancient India unmarried women were also vulnerable to customary forced marriages which often involved violence and sexual assault. Hindu law books condemn two types of forced marriages which involve violence and rape. In the first, women are forcibly abducted from their homes after killing their kinsmen and sexually violated before they are forced into marriage. In the second, they are seduced and sexually violated while they are sleeping, intoxicated or disoriented before they are married in captivity and under coercion. The law books declare both types of marriage as sinful and inferior, and exhort Brahmanas of good reputation not to solemnize them and lend credence to them. According to the law books, only a virgin girl is entitled to participate in the sacrament of marriage in the traditional Vedic style and eligible to be gifted to gods for protection and blessings, before she is married to the bridegroom. Manu (8.226) states, “The nuptial texts are applied solely to virgins, (and) nowhere among men to females who have lost their virginity, for such (females) are excluded from religious ceremonies.”

Source:- RIG VED Quotes


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