Gender Biases Based in Superstitions, Customs and Traditions


Tanuja Nailwal is a second year engineering student at JIIT, Noida. She loves meeting new people and her love for food is infinite. This avid debater loves to be around kids and is striving hard to leave her footprints on this Earth. She wants the world around everyone to be beautiful and she tries doing that by her writings.

Gender Biases Based in Superstitions, Customs and Traditions

“If superstition enters, the brain is gone.” – Swami Vivekanand

For several centuries, the Indian way of living has been dominated by religion and it is still dominated by religion. Though science has progressed at an exponential rate in the past few decades but it, still (in 2016), is unable to root out the superstitions,customs and traditions prevalent in society.  

Superstitions are a commonly witnessed phenomenon especially in India. They can be seen practised anytime, anywhere, in office, home, en route, public places, etc. People of every caste, creed or community are superstitious and follow customs even though they might defy logic. Superstitions have been prevalent in society since time immemorial. This irrationality has its origin in ignorance, lack of rationality, scientific attitude and also a lack of faculty to interpret certain events. 

Many people fall victim to customs and superstitions blindly never questioning the meaning or origin. Though the number of people following customs and traditions are slowly declining it is seen that even the educated, knowledgeable strata of society often fall into this trap of tradition and superstitions either consciously or unconsciously.

Did a black cat just cross my path? Oh no! I have to wait until someone else crosses that path, otherwise it might bring misfortune.

Mom: “How dare you sweep the floor in the evening? Don’t you know it brings bad luck!

These are just some of the many things that you hear almost every other day. Do these comments make any sense? NO! Still, we don’t refuse to follow them, do we? Does the upside down position of slippers really bring bad luck?

Well, such superstitions might seem ludicrous at times but there are many which gravely impact innumerable lives in some harrowing ways, especially, the lives of women.

History testifies how our lives have been centered around superstitions and customs until recently. To name a few, Sati pratha, jauhar, devadasi were some practices among many traditions based on preposterous unfounded beliefs that society had come up with against women. Thankfully, many of these beliefs have been successfully banished by convincing scientific theories and the developing minds of people yet it hasn’t been able to root out old wives’ tales that sometimes still persistent in the minds of people. Some such harmful traditions and customs are as follows:

  • Vidhava pratha:  A blatant and reprehensible violation of women’s right to live, where widowed women are compelled to change their appearance, wear only white plain clothes and are put in isolation. It is still believed that inviting a widow to celebrations is a bad omen.
  • Entry in Temples: The infamous Sabarimala temple case is in itself a clear reflection of prevalent beliefs and myths taking its toll on our society. Women aged between 10 and 50, that is, those who are in menstruating age are barred from entering the temple. Labelled “impure”, they are not allowed to worship the sacred idols in the temple. 
  • Purification tests: A women gang raped in Gujarat had been ordered, like several others, to undergo “Purification Test” before she could be accepted back into the society. This purification test is conducted by a tantric predating the existence of courts. The girls are asked several questions. If she fails the test she is believed to be impure by the will of God and is cast out there and then.

Such superstitions and customs are indeed like a question mark on our rationality and the only remedy for this is education and social awareness for people to think logically. If we want to progress as a society then we need to get away with these beliefs because we cannot progress when half of our population is prone to such ridiculous and harmful attitudes.  

Our Constitution speaks highly of human rights and is completely centered on the principles of equality but in order to ensure each one of us even-handedness and a life worth living, we need to reach these small dark corners of hidebound mentality. This is not just the responsibility of the judiciary or the government but of each one of us. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything!



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