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Abstract

The choice of women for reproduction and their free expression of sexuality in India are not separate from religious or cultural beliefs. The ancient legal text, The Manusmriti and its law codes had a significant role in creating the Brahmanic Patriarchy, the caste system, and the heteronormative structures of Ancient India. Under the British, the text became instrumental in constructing a complex system of jurisprudence in which ‘general law’ was supplemented by ‘personal law’ determined by one’s religious affiliation. The present study using the qualitative research method, analyses the sexual politics of The Manusmriti from women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRH Rights) perspective. Instead of the original Sanskrit text, the English translation of The Manusmriti by Wendy Doniger and Brian. K. Smith was taken for the textual analysis and attempted an interpretive analysis of the specific verses coming under the selected six categories. Several of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of women related to the right to bodily integrity, marriage rights, right to contraception, right to divorce, etc., are denied as per the injunctions prescribed in the text. Women are portrayed as sexually promiscuous, secret, sly, and out to capture men. Their bodies are frequently objectified and more often devalued as eliciting disgust. The authors connect the implications of the findings with the present status of women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Indian society and highlight the need for re-reading the religious and cultural texts with a human rights /gender perspective.

Note on the Author

Naseera N.M. is a Research Scholar of Women’s Studies at the University of Calicut, Kerala, India. She was a journalist in various media outlets in Kerala before joining the doctoral programme and has done several news reports related to women in National and International media.

Dr. Moly Kuruvilla is a Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Calicut, Kerala, India. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Research on New Dimensions of Gender Mainstreaming and Women Empowerment published by IGI Global, California, in June 2020.

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