In India, Women Can’t Even Have Their Own Religion


Here’s an absolutely creepy situation out of India, where a court has refused to allow a woman to retain her own religion (Zoroastrianism), ruling that she is now officially the religion of her husband (Hinduism) because she married him.

The bench, though, has unanimously dismissed the petition by a Parsi woman married to a Hindu who had demanded a direction to Parsi Anjuman Trust not to prohibit her entry into Parsi religious places and to allow her to remain present during the last rites of her parents.

The petition was moved by one Goolrokh Adi Contractor, who had married Mahipal Gupta, a Hindu, under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act.

Goolrokh moved the petition after the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust did not allow another Parsi woman, Dilbar, who had also married a non-Parsi, to attend the last rites of her parents after their deaths.

Fearing she too will meet the same treatment at the time of deaths of her parents, Goolrokh moved the petition, which was first heard by a division bench.

How warped is that? If the state determines that you are officially one religion, you can be refused the right to go to another religion’s buildings even to observe a funeral for your parents. Legally, the same thing could happen here, of course. A church could refuse to allow someone in for a funeral and the government could do nothing about it. And that’s a good thing. But the fact that a religious group would do so speaks volumes to their inhumanity. And at least in other countries, the government would not have an official policy to determine that women must adopt the religion of their husbands.

Comments

  1. barbrykost says

    Such as when the priest kicked a woman out of her mother’s funeral because she was lesbian?
    Yeah, it happens here.

  2. raven says

    A church could refuse to allow someone in for a funeral and the government could do nothing about it.

    More and more funerals are occurring outside of churches.

    And they call them celebrations of life.

  3. raven says

    Forced Conversions Hike Pakistan Minorities’ Fears

    Care2.com (blog)‎ – 1 hour ago

    Hindu and Christian representatives say forced conversions to Islam have become the latest weapon of Islamic extremists in what they call a growing campaign …

    They are back to the dark ages. Or maybe they never left them.

    A growing problem in Pakistan is forced conversions of xians and Hindus. Religions discovered a long time ago that you don’t have to convince people of anything if you just point a sword at their throat.

    Religions copy each other a lot. I’m sure some fundies somewhere are sitting around a table wondering how they could do that in the USA.

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    Reading the article, it seems that the council of Zoroasterans in India made the determination that she was not allowed inside the religion’s sanctuaries, and the civil courts refused to intercede. Isn’t that exactly the way it should be?

    As I recall, fire temples are open only to those who are acknowledged as members of the faith. Marrying outside the culture is seen as abandoning the religion; as someone now considered to be a non-adherent, they are therefore banned from entering a fire temple and thus from participating in the rituals that occur in the temple. Many religions follow a similar practice: non-Orthodox are ordered to leave at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful, non-Mormons are not permitted to enter a LDS temple, and every Wiccan circle I’ve ever been associated with had some rituals that were open only to members.

  5. jamessweet says

    Non-Mormons — or even Mormons who are not in good enough standing to possess a “temple recommend” — cannot enter a Mormon temple, even if it’s for the wedding of an immediate family member.

    Yeah, they can fucking fuck my dog, you fucking assholes. (Well, not really… my dog is very loving and kind!)

  6. Sastra says

    Reacting to the submission, Justice Kureshi observed in his judgment, “To my mind, it is not the function, even the power, of the court to mandate discarding of old customs merely on the ground that with passage of time, such customs have become outdated. If at all, it is for the legislature to make laws outlawing such customs, if necessary…” Concluding his judgment, Justice Kureshi observed, “All reforms start with a humble beginning.”

    I’m having trouble figuring out exactly what is going on here. Whether Goolrokh is or is not a proper, true Parsi who can attend her parent’s funeral would presumably be up to whatever Zoroastrianism religion or temple she’s attending. Once you enter into a supernatural-based religion the rules of the natural-based world are all malleable.

    So, are the judges and legislature acting on behalf of the religious organization — with its full support and compliance? Or is it — or in theory could it be — the case that the Zoroastrian (Parsi?) authorities WANT Goolrokh to attend, WANT to consider her a Parsi, but no, the government won’t allow the religious officials/theologians in charge to be in charge?

    It’s confusing.

    If this judgment were coming from a church council it would make sense. If this judgment were supporting the authority of the temple elders or whatever they are to decide the laws and customs of their own religion, that also makes sense. But if the judge is interfering not with what Goorokh says or thinks she is, but with what the authorities in the established religion say or think she is, that’s strange. You’d think the Zoroastrians would be fighting it tooth and nail.

  7. Chiroptera says

    Gregory in Seattle, #4: Reading the article, it seems that the council of Zoroasterans in India made the determination that she was not allowed inside the religion’s sanctuaries, and the civil courts refused to intercede. Isn’t that exactly the way it should be?

    If I read the OP correctly, Ed is saying that is indeed the way it should be. That is not the what happened, though.

    If I read the linked article correctly, the court did in fact intercede and never made a determination that they should not. They ruled that Ms. Goolrokh was, in fact, Hindu.

    A second question they seemed to be considering is whether the Parsis should be allowed to continue such a custom that keeps people from their close relatives’ funerals.

  8. physicsphdstu says

    I believe that you have not read or understood what is going on. A religious body refused to allow a person into its religious sanctified places.

    …who had demanded a direction to Parsi Anjuman Trust not to prohibit her entry into Parsi religious places and to allow her to remain present during the last rites of her parents “

    where “Parsi Anjuman Trust” is the local reigious committee.
    She claimed that this practise was just a custom not a law in Parsi (Zoroastrianism) culture

    The court refused to interfere .

    “To my mind, it is not the function, even the power, of the court to mandate discarding of old customs merely on the ground that with passage of time, such customs have become outdated. If at all, it is for the legislature to make laws outlawing such customs, if necessary…”

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    barbrykost #1: Such as when the priest kicked a woman out of her mother’s funeral because she was lesbian?
    Yeah, it happens here.

    Link or citation please? I suspect you are referring to a recent incident in which a Lesbian was not “kicked out,” but was instead refused participation in an act of ritual cannibalism.

  10. d cwilson says

    If a male Parsi had married outside his faith, would he also be banned from their temples?

    I think it boils down to who gets to decide who is a “true” member of the faith. We’ve had enough nonsense from wingnuts who have claimed that Obama isn’t a “true” Christian because he has “Muslim blood” or he’s not anti-choice or whatever. I certainly think the last entity who should decide your religious affiliation is the government. Neither should the government interfere if the rules of your organized religion say, “If you do X, you’re out” and you go ahead and do X. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of the government branding a Hindu if you don’t follow any of its tenets either.

    However, this is an issue that religions are going to have to deal with more and more. The barbaric idea that parents are expected to disown (or worse) their children if they marry outside their faith is fading away.

    Maybe that more than anything else will ultimately end the death grip religion has on most of the world.

  11. eric says

    Raven @3: Religions copy each other a lot. I’m sure some fundies somewhere are sitting around a table wondering how they could do that in the USA.

    Oh, they already do it, just not within the borders of the U.S. They go to impoverished areas of the globe and point clean water and food at them instead of guns. But the message is pretty much the same: convert or die, your choice.

  12. eric says

    I also have to say that the story’s a bit unclear. Specifically, its unclear to me whether there is some Indian law which states that she’s now Hindu and as a Hindu she can’t go in. Or, if instead, there is some Zoroastrian religious precept that says she is no longer Zoroastrian because she married a Hindu.

    If the former, then Ed is right and the legal system is seriously warped. But if the latter, there’s pretty much nothing unusual going on here. She broke a sect rule, her sect no longer lets her in because of it, and the courts were probably right not to force the sect to let her in.

    It would be analogous to a conservative RC church refusing to let a former parishoner attend services after they get divorced. In such cases, the only thing which is warped is the sect’s religious precepts, not Indian civil law.

  13. Midnight Rambler says

    If I read the OP correctly, Ed is saying that is indeed the way it should be. That is not the what happened, though.

    If I read the linked article correctly, the court did in fact intercede and never made a determination that they should not. They ruled that Ms. Goolrokh was, in fact, Hindu.

    It’s ambiguous. The Zoroastrian authorities decided Goolrokh would not be admitted to temples because she had married outside the faith. All three judges ruled against her petition to be allowed in; one on the basis that the Parsi trust had the right to follow whatever customs they want, but the other two on the basis that she implicitly converted to Hinduism. The latter does sort of jibe with what Ed is talking about, but it still doesn’t qualify as interceding.

  14. silverbuttons says

    Why would she want to belong to either religion? They are both equally ridiculous.

  15. sivivolk says

    It’s a matter of Zoroastrian religious law. Zoroastrianism (which is rapidly shrinking) does not accept converts, and only children of a male Zoroastrian can count as Zoroastrians – a woman in a mixed-religious marriage will not have her children accepted as members of that religion.

    There are more moderate Zoroastrians that I’ve spoken to who’re trying to change this, but given how stodgy their religious authorities are, it’s likely to take a while.

  16. Thorne says

    More and more funerals are occurring outside of churches.

    And they call them celebrations of life.

    That’s exactly what we did for my mother recently, despite her being Catholic. If my father had wanted the funeral in the church I would have gone, under silent protest, but it was his decision NOT to do that. I don’t think he’s quite gotten past the idea of a god, but he’s certainly gotten away from the RCC.

  17. jjgdenisrobert says

    Do not ever make the mistake of thinking that India is a Western Secular Democracy. It’s nothing of the sort. Let’s not forget that Richard Gere kissing an Indian actress led to a national scandal and landed her in court.

  18. uzza says

    @#9 Oh FFS.
    There’s a difference between “kicked out” and “refused participation”?
    Right.

  19. jimaido says

    I would not be surprised if the Indian judges sided with her. There are tons of antiquated laws in the India (the Supreme court is still out on the decriminalization of homosexuality). And to make matters worse, there are different civil laws for Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc when it comes to “tradition”. So if someone wants to marry from another religion, they have to resort to the Special (!) Marriage Act, as in this case. And courts usually don’t interfere with these. So if I am married under Muslim law, it is perfectly OK to use the triple Talaq to divorce my wife, but it will be thrown out if I am married under any other civil law. Here is one example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shah_Bano_case

  20. laurentweppe says

    Something not told in the article was that the traditionalist Parsis are, like traditionalists from many small ethnic group, more interested in maintaining the “purity” of their ethnic lineage and enforcing its cohesion through endogamy: the community has to remain a tightly knitted extended family for the self-appointed keepers of traditions to retain as much of their power as possible: the religious aspect of this affair is a smokescreen hiding some nasty political struggles, as explained here during an older but similar affair.

    ***
    ***

    Such as when the priest kicked a woman out of her mother’s funeral because she was lesbian?
Yeah, it happens here.

    Correction: the priest refused to allow her to partake in communion, then when Barbara Johnson started her mother’s eulogy, he left the altar, then he courageously ran in his chambers and refused to do his job -that is: finish the funeral of one of his fucking parishioner- (so much for christian fortitude, hey, father Guarnizo?), and THEN… Then the Eucharistic minister, who was not a priest, said fuck the hierarchy, took the priest place, allowed the grieving Barbara Johnson to have her communion, with the unanimous approval of the people in the pew, and finally a retired priest jumped right out of his retirement to lead the final part of the funeral -the burial- while the other sadistic shameful excuse of a human being was still hiding in his chambers. So technically, it’s more like the priest kicked himself out of the funeral while the rest of the laity decided that they prefered to remain decent human beings

  21. says

    @ UZZA:

    @#9 Oh FFS.
    There’s a difference between “kicked out” and “refused participation”?
    Right.

    Yes, there is a difference. The woman in question was in every way present and free to participate in her mother’s funeral except that the priest wouldn’t let her eat a host at communion time. The woman even gave the eulogy from the altar. Now, word was that the priest behaved like a dick and walked out during the eulogy, but he left; she wasn’t kicked out.

    Whatever you think of their rules, Catholicism places certain conditions on who should and who should not take Catholic “sacraments,” one of which is communion. That’s not the same as being barred entry into a Catholic ritual or denied permission to participate in every other way.

    Here’s a thought: If you’re Catholic and you want to go to communion, don’t let the priest know right before the Mass that you’re disqualified from Communion based on the rules every person who received a Catholic education knows. You can also be denied baptism, confirmation, matrimony and priest ordination as examples of other Catholic “sacraments” that come with rules and requirements. So right before the wedding, for example, don’t tell the priest you were secretly previously married and divorced without a church annulment.

    Plenty of people, like me, for instance, don’t take communion when they’re at a Catholic Mass–whether a stand alone, a Baptismal Mass, a wedding or a funeral Mass. People don’t for various reasons. In my case, I don’t buy into it so I don’t do it which is fine with them and fine with me, but in no way do I feel kicked out weddings or funerals because passing on communion or being denied communion is certainly not the same as being kicked out.

  22. eric says

    Here’s a thought: If you’re Catholic and you want to go to communion, don’t let the priest know right before the Mass that you’re disqualified from Communion based on the rules every person who received a Catholic education knows.

    First – she didn’t let the priest know, you ass. Another parishoner told the priest that the woman accompanying Ms. Johnson was her partner. Ms. Johnson behaved exactly the way you suggested. Are you now going to claim that was the wrong way for her to behave?

    Second – every Catholic knows lesbians can’t receive communion? You seriously believe this? The Archdiocese apologized, offered to invite her to a Mass for her mother, and said “The most important thing is that another family never ever go through what this family went though.” So – either the RCC Archdiocese of Washington doesn’t know what you claim every Catholic ought to know, or maybe, perhaps, just consider the possibility, that you may be wrong.

    C’mon man, there are a lot of liberal catholic ministers out there who would happily give communion to a practicing gay catholic. Its simply not true that Ms. Johnson should or could have known she was disqualified. That decision is priest- and diocese- dependent. Fr. Guarnizo was likely hired to do the funeral or connected to her mother’s (the deceased) church, not Ms. Johnson’s. So there would’ve been absolutely no reason for her to know, and probably no reason for her to check, given that the priest was called in to officiate in a one-time funeral.

    I have no issue with a priest refusing communion to someone, but your holier-than-thou post implying that what happened was someohew Ms. Johnson’s fault is excreble.

  23. inflection says

    Here in Europe, my work colleagues have the incredibly annoying habit of identifying me as a Christian because I was baptised, despite the fact that I didn’t even believe it at the time (my mother wanted me to). I have repeatedly, sometimes angrily, told them that I am atheist, and in no way Christian, and do not wish to be considered Christian. I’ve even performed a de-baptism in front of one of them (dabbed Coke Zero on my forehead, because there are zero gods, right?), telling her to stop calling me that.

  24. says

    Hey Eric,

    I disagreed civilly enough. I would have more than willingly read what you had to say in dispute without your childish reaction. I responded to UZZA based on things I read about the case. I’m well aware that there are priests who would not have denied her communion, but the story I read about the situation placed the woman introducing her partner to the priest before the mass and the priest gleaning the situation from her comments. If that’s incorrect, then I wouldn’t see any responsibility on the part of this woman. If you read what I responded to, my comment is otherwise substantively correct in drawing a distinction between being denied communion and being kicked out of a funeral, a distinction that UZZA seemed to sarcastically ridicule.

    Part of my reaction to the original comment stems from not getting what the fuck is up with people who don’t believe in God, find transubstantiation ridiculous as I do, yet get all worked up about whether people get to take Catholic communion and consider it some sort of abomination if someone is denied. I find it contradictory to ridicule the notion of communion and shed tears over people being denied it.

  25. dontpanic says

    Inflection,

    Here in Europe, my work colleagues have the incredibly annoying habit of identifying me as a Christian because I was baptised

    How would they know? Here in the US, unless you went around telling people or your coworkers were intimately familiar with your family, knowledge about baptismal status would be hard work to suss out.

  26. Tony says

    barbrykost @1:

    Such as when the priest kicked a woman out of her mother’s funeral because she was lesbian?
    Yeah, it happens here.

    Listening to the reactions on Catholic Radio about that story, I caught a glimmer of humanity. I believe Patrick Coffman said it was a iffy situation. He didn’t condemn the priest, but he also didn’t completely support him. I was shocked to not hear him completely agree with the priest (of course, the proper response of a truly compassionate human being would be to completely denounce the actions of the priest, and affirm that everyone has the right love whomever they want).

  27. Tony says

    raven @2:

    More and more funerals are occurring outside of churches.

    And they call them celebrations of life.

    And can I just scream Halle–uh, oops. That’s a great thing. I think we should do away with funerals and do celebrations of life. When my best friend passed away a few years ago, he had a private family funeral, but a public ‘viewing’. Then he later had a celebration of life at a gay bar here in town (our friend Maria billed it as the queer community’s chance to give celebration to him). Sometime after that, I thought about how much more enjoyable it was to stand in front of a group of 30 (well, enjoy might be the wrong word; boy I was nervous) and talk about the wonderful memories I have of my buddy, as opposed to sit around and be depressed with everyone dressed in black and looking {justifiably} somber.

  28. Tony says


    You can also be denied baptism, confirmation, matrimony and priest ordination as examples of other Catholic “sacraments” that come with rules and requirements. So right before the wedding, for example, don’t tell the priest you were secretly previously married and divorced without a church annulment.

    Ah, catholicism. The man-made archaic rules are what is important. Not the love of two people in a wedding, or the sorrow of a family at a funeral.

  29. Tony says


    I find it contradictory to ridicule the notion of communion and shed tears over people being denied it.

    Wow. You can’t understand why someone-no matter what their belief or non belief-would get mad if a mourning child were denied communion (which apparently is a big deal for catholics) with her mother?
    Yes, communion is silly. Yes, I don’t believe in your god (or any of a few thousand others). I do believe that a catholic child in mourning should have the right to mourn in whatever religious ceremonies her church conducts.
    I don’t believe in the religion.
    I do care for the rights of others.

  30. eric says

    Dr. X.

    I disagreed civilly enough.

    You don’t see anything holier than thou or sarcastic in your comment starting “Here’s a thought…”? Seriously?

    And you still haven’t answered my question about whether you honestly believe ‘every Catholic’ should know lesbians can’t receive communion. Saying this was your understanding of this case doesn’t get you off the hook because you made a broad claim about Catholicism here. One which, at best, paints the entire RCC church as holding a simple position that it doesn’t actually hold.

    Part of my reaction to the original comment stems from not getting what the fuck is up with people who don’t believe in God, find transubstantiation ridiculous as I do, yet get all worked up about whether people get to take Catholic communion and consider it some sort of abomination if someone is denied.

    As with Tony, I see nothing wrong with complaining when a person hired to conduct a funeral ceremony disrupts the ceremony by dropping out/not fulfilling their obligation at the last second because the dead person’s daughter happens to be gay. You either do it early enough for the family to find a replacement, or you do something you would not normally do, because once you start that ceremony, you should really be putting the family’s feeling first, not your own.

    As for your or my attitudes towards the mass; I consider it like a pharmacist refusing to dispense some homeopathic medicine because the customer is black. I don’t think you have to believe in homeopathy to find such conduct offensive.

  31. inflection says

    dontpanic @26:

    Because I told them, because they asked. We were discussing religion, and I said I was an atheist, and they pressed the matter further by asking if I had been baptised as an infant. I said not as an infant, but I went through the motions around the age of 9 or so — and that was it, and they all said, oh, you’re a Christian, and I can’t convince them otherwise now.

    Somehow to them it’s like an immutable part of your identity, something you can’t lose once you’re stuck with it. It probably says a great deal about European attitudes toward religious bigotry if this approach to religious identity is widespread.

Leave a Reply