Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Women Status in Nepalese society influence of Manusmriti

In Nepal, women are discriminated in each and every sphere of their life. They are treated as a second class citizen. I always wonder why they are treated in such a way. I used to blame to our culture, tradition and patriarchal societal system and always wondering how this culture and tradition have been formed. Nepal is a predominately Hindu society where more than 80% people have a faith on Hindu religion (Census 2001), therefore, everyone says that in hindu society due to patriarchal ideological system prevail discrimination is exist between male and female. However, I was still not satisfy with the justifications given by scholars, researchers, developmental workers and general people. I was always in search of depth understanding of the situation and reasons for such discrimination. 

In the course of my research project in examining the impact of gender power relations in access to, and utilisation of sexual and reproductive health I read number of articles. However, again I found that only in the very superficial level it says due to culture and patriarchal societal practices Nepalese women have been discriminating in the society. Apart from this, there is not much information about the root of the problem origin. I was not that much satisfied with the information that I read from the available literature regarding women low status in our society.

Luckily, on 4 January 2012 I found the article titled "Manusmriti Kai Batoma Samaj" published in e-Kantipur by Rameshwori Panta, which in English its title reads "Society is still in the path of Manusmriti". From this, I got some hints about Manusmriti where it has mentioned that our society has been guided with ancient religious books and scriptures. It has stated that
'मनुस्मृति' को १८७ औं श्लोकमा भनिएको छ- 'व्यभिचारी पुरुष छ भने उसलाई प्रायश्चित गराई घरमा प्रवेश गराउनु र ऊसँग पूर्ववत् व्यवहार गर्नु ।' तर त्यसको १८८ औं श्लोकमा भनिएको छ- 'पतीत स्त्री छ भने उसलाई प्रायश्चित गराई घरछेउमा झुपडी बनाएर राख्नु, अन्न-वस्त्र दिनु तर घरमा प्रवेश नगराउनु ।' कति विभेदकारी छन्, हाम्रा धार्मिक कानुनहरू वा मान्यताहरू ! समान अपराधमा एउटालाई दण्ड, अर्कोलाई उन्मुक्ति ! पुरुष चोखिन्छ, नारी बिटुलिन्छे । After knowing about these statements then I explored in the internet about Manusmriti. I was quite amazed knowing the fact that whatever we do and told to do and ask to follow to girls and women in our society for example during menstruation and daily social affairs are inscribed in Manusmriti. Panta highlighted that all the rules and regulations of Nepal reading the discrimination are guided with the ideology of Manusrimiti.

Manusmriti also known as Mānava-Dharmaśāstra the first regulatory system in the history of mankind that consisted of about one million Sanskrit verses (shalokas) drafted in 1500 BC.  Generally known in English as the Laws of Manu, it was first translated into English in 1794 by Sir William Jones, an English Orientalist and judge of the British Supreme Court of Judicature in Calcutta. Manu, was the legendary first man, the Adam of the Hindus and was the first sociologist of human society and the Law-giver and the Architect of Hindu society that divides Hindus into four varnas i.e. casteism. He not only divide Hindus into four varnas (classes), he also grades them. Besides prescribing rank and occupation Manu grants privilege to swarnas and imposes penalties on the shudras. It coded that Brahmanas are teachers and priests; Kshatriyas are administators and armyman; Vaishyas, as called as Aryas are traders, farmers and herdsmen; and Shudras are Unholy slaves. According to Hindu tradition, the Manusmriti records the words of Brahma, supreme creator. As per the Manu's Code I-31 it says "For the welfare of humanity the supreme creator Brahma, gave birth to the Brahmins from his mouth, the Kshatriyas from his shoulders, the Vaishyas from his thighs and Shudras from his feet."

 Manusmriti was burnt on December 25th 1927 in India by Dr. Ambedkar condemning "Black Laws of the Manu Smriti Against Dalits and Women" that has invited all the Present Nepal problems relating to caste/ethncities and identity and so on. It is said that because of blindly following Manusmriti (only bad codes) by rulers like Prithivi Narayan Shah including others and purohit/priests it has promoted discriminatory practices against women and Caste System in Nepal by formulating the Constitution based on its ideology. Manusmriti had been translated by George Bühler in 1886 (Sacred Books of the East, vol. 25).


The Code of Manu states, "In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, then to her sons; a woman must never be independent. There is no God on earth for a woman than her husband.....She must on the death of her husband allow herself to be burnt alive on the same funeral pyre. That everyone will praise her virtue."

It is stated in Manusmriti that 'a wife, a son, and slave, these three are traditionally said to have no property; whatever property they acquire belongs to the man to whom they belong. Similarly, 'a woman should not make a great hoard of the family property that belongs to several people, not even her own valuables, without her husband's permission. These two verdicts of Manusmriti are more 

regressive against women's property: 'And the brothers should individually give 

one's own portions.' If they did not give this, they would fall. As such, 'a son is just 

like one's self, and a daughter is equal to a son.


Besides, I was really shocked reading the book titled "Genocide of Women in Hinduism" written by Sita Agrawal in 1999 dedicating to her sister who had been murdered due to Dowry related issue.

There are so many verses in the Manu Smriti for and against Women which are below:

Chapter III- The Obligation to Honour Women

55. Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare.
56. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.
57. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers.
58. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic.
59. Hence men who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food.
60. In that family, where the husband is pleased with his wife and the wife with her husband, happiness will assuredly be lasting.
61. For if the wife is not radiant with beauty, she will not attract her husband; but if she has no attractions for him, no children will be born. 
62. If the wife is radiant with beauty, the whole house is bright; but if she is destitute of beauty, all will appear dismal. 
63. By low marriages, by omitting (the performance of) sacred rites, by neglecting the study of the Veda, and by irreverence towards Brahmanas, (great) families sink low. 
64. By (practising) handicrafts, by pecuniary transactions, by (begetting) children on Sudra females only, by (tradingin) cows, horses, and carriages, by (the pursuit of) agriculture and by taking service under a king.
65. By sacricing for men unworthy to o er sacri ces and by denying (the future rewards for good) works, families, deficient in the (knowledge of the) Veda, quickly perish.

Chapter V-The Duties of Women

147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.
148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.
149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both her own and her husband's families contemptible.
150. She must always be cheerful, clever in the management of her household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure.
151. Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father's permission, she shall obey as long as he lives, and when he is dead, she must not insult his memory.
152. For the sake of procuring good fortune to brides, the recitation of benedictory texts (svastyayana) and the sacrifice to the Lord of creatures (Prajapati) are used at weddings; but the betrothal by the father or guardian is the cause of the husband's dominion over his wife.
153. The husband who wedded her with sacred texts always gives happiness to his wife, both in season and out of season, in this world and in the next.
154. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure elsewhere, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife.
155. No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart from their husbands; if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.
156. A faithful wife, who desires to dwell after death with her husband, must never do anything that might displease him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead.
157. At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by living on pure flowers, roots, and fruit; but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died.
158. Until death let her be patient of hardships, self-controlled, and chaste, and strive to fulfill that most excellent duty which is prescribed for wives who have one husband only.
159. Many thousands of Brahmins who were chaste from their youth have gone to heaven without continuing their race. 
160. A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches
heaven, though she have no son, just like those chaste men.
161. But a woman who from a desire to have offspring violates her duty towards her deceased husband brings on herself disgrace in this world and loses her place with her husband in heaven.
162. Offspring begotten by another man is here not considered lawful, nor does offspring begotten on another man's wife belong to the begetter, nor is a second husband anywhere prescribed for virtuous women.
163. She who cohabits with a man of higher caste, forsaking her own husband who belongs to a lower one, will become contemptible in this world and is called a remarried woman (parapurva).
164. By violating her duty towards her husband, a wife is disgraced in this world, after death she enters the womb of a jackal, and is tormented by diseases as the punishment of her sin.
165-166. She who, controlling her thoughts, words, and deeds, never slights her lord resides after death with her husband in heaven and is called a virtuous wife. In reward of such conduct, a female who controls her thoughts, speech, and actions, gains in this life highest renown and in the next world a place near her husband.
167-168. A twice-born man, versed in the sacred law, shall burn a wife of equal caste who conducts herself thus and dies before him with the sacred fires used for the Agnihotra and with the sacrificial implements. Having thus, at the funeral, given the sacred fires to his wife who dies before him, he may marry again and again kindle the fires.
169. Living according to the preceding rules, he must never neglect the five great sacrifices and, having taken a wife, he must dwell in his own house during the second period of his life.

Chapter VIII-Crimes and Punishments (Adultery)

357. Offering presents to a woman, romping with her, touching her ornaments and dress, sitting with her on a bed, all these acts are considered adulterous acts (samgrahana).
358. If one touches a woman in a place which ought not to be touched or allows oneself to be touched in such a spot – all such acts done with mutual consent are declared to be adulterous (samgrahana).
370. But a woman who pollutes a damsel shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and be made to ride through the town on a donkey.
371. If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or her own excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.
382. If a Vaisya approaches a guarded female of the Kshatriya caste, or a Kshatriya a guarded Vaisya woman, they both deserve the same punishment as in the case of an unguarded Brahmin female.
383. A Brahmin shall be compelled to pay a fine of one thousand panas if he has intercourse with guarded females of those two castes; for offending with a guarded Shudra female, a fine of one thousand panas shall be inflicted on a Kshatriya or a Vaisya.
385. A Brahmin who approaches unguarded females of the Kshatriya or Vaisya castes, or a Shudra female, shall be fined five hundred panas; but for intercourse with a female of the lowest castes, one thousand.
416. A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property; the wealth which they earn is (acquired) for him to whom they belong.

Chapter IX-Duties of Husband and Wife

2. Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males of their families and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one's control.
3. Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.
4. Reprehensible is the father who gives not his daughter in marriage at the proper time; reprehensible is the husband who approaches not his wife in due season; and reprehensible is the son who does not protect his mother after her husband has died.
5. Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear; for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families.
11. Let the husband employ his wife in the collection and expenditure of his wealth, in keeping everything clean, in the fulfillment of religious duties, in the preparation of his food, and in looking after the household utensils.
12. Women, con ned in the house under trustworthy and obedient servants, are not (well) guarded; but those who of their own accord keep guard over themselves, are well guarded.
13. Drinking spirituous liquor, associating with wicked people, separation from the husband, rambling abroad, sleeping at unseasonable hours, and dwelling in other men's houses, are the six causes of the ruin of women.
14. Women do not care for beauty [in men], nor is their attention fixed on [a man's] age; thinking, it is enough that he is a man, they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly [and to the old as well as to the young?].
15. Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this world.
17. (When creating them) Manu allotted to women (a love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct.
18. For women no (sacramental) rite (is performed) with sacred texts, thus the law is settled; women (who are) destitute of strength and destitute of (the knowledge of) Vedic texts, (are as
impure as) falsehood (itself), that is a xed rule.
20. 'If my mother, going astray and unfaithful, conceived illicit desires, may my father keep that seed from me,' that is the scriptural text.
21. If a woman thinks in her heart of anything that would pain her husband, the (above mentioned text) is declared (to be a means for) completely removing such in delity. 
22. Whatever be the qualities of the man with whom a woman is united according to the law, such qualities even she assumes, like a river (united) with the ocean. 
23. Akshamala, a woman of the lowest birth, being united to Vasishtha and Sarangi, (being united) to Mandapala, became worthy of honour. 
24. These and other females of low birth have attained eminence in this world by the respective good qualities of their husbands.
27. The production of children, the nurture of those born, and the daily life of men, of these matters woman is visibly the cause.
28. Offspring, the due performance on religious rites, faithful service, highest conjugal happiness, and heavenly bliss for the ancestors and oneself, depend on one's wife alone.
29. She who, controlling her thoughts, speech, and acts, violates not her duty towards her lord, dwells with him (after death) in heaven, and in this world is called by the virtuous a faithful (wife,
sadhvi).
30. But for disloyalty to her husband a wife is censured among men, and (in her next life) she is born in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases, thepunishment of her sin.
33. By the sacred tradition, the woman is declared to be the soil, the man is declared to be the seed; the production of all corporeal beings (takes place) through the union of the soil with the seed.
34. In some cases the seed is more distinguished, and in some the womb of the female; but
when both are equal, the o spring is most highly esteemed.
41. Never therefore must a prudent well-trained man, who knows the Veda and its Angas and desires long life, cohabit with another's wife.
51. Thus men who have no marital property in women, but sow their seed in the soil of others, benefit the owner of the woman; but the giver of the seed reaps no advantage.
57. The wife of an elder brother is for his younger (brother) the wife of a Guru; but the wife of the
younger is declared (to be) the daughter-in-law of the elder. 
58. An elder (brother) who approaches the wife of the younger, and a younger (brother who approaches) the wife of the elder, except in times of misfortune, both become outcasts, even though (they were duly) authorised. 
59. On failure of issue (by her husband) a woman who has been authorised, may obtain, (in the) proper (manner prescribed), the desired o spring by (cohabitation with) a brother-in-law or (with some other) Sapinda (of the husband).
64. By twice-born men a widow must not be appointed to (cohabit with) any other (than her husband); for they who appoint (her) to another (man), will violate the eternal law. 
65. In the sacred texts which refer to marriage the appointment (of widows) is nowhere mentioned, nor is the remarriage of widows prescribed in the rules concerning marriage.
69. If the (future) husband of a maiden dies after troth verbally plighted, her brother-in-law shall wed her according to the following rule.
70. Having, according to the rule, espoused her (who must be) clad in white garments and be intent on purity, he shall approach her once in each proper season until issue (be had). 
71. Let no prudent man, after giving his daughter to one (man), give her again to another; for
he who gives (his daughter) whom he had before given, incurs (the guilt of) speaking falsely regarding a human being.
72. Though (a man) may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may abandon (her if she be) blemished, diseased, or deowered, and (if she have been) given with fraud. 
73. If anybody gives away a maiden possessing blemishes without declaring them, (the bridegroom) may annul that (contract) with the evil-minded giver.
74. A man who has business (abroad) may depart after securing a maintenance for his wife; for a wife, even though virtuous, may be corrupted if she be distressed by want of subsistence. 
75. If (the husband) went on a journey after providing (for her), the wife shall subject herself to restraints in her daily life; but if he departed without providing (for her), she may subsist by blameless manual work. 
76. If the husband went abroad for some sacred duty, (she) must wait for him eight years, if (he went) to (acquire) learning or fame six (years), if (he went) for pleasure three years. 
77. For one year let a husband bear with a wife who hates him; but after (the lapse of) a year let him deprive her of her property and cease to cohabit with her. 
78. She who shows disrespect to (a husband) who is addicted to (some evil) passion, is a drunkard, or diseased, shall be deserted for three months (and be) deprived of her ornaments and furniture.
79. But she who shows aversion towards a mad or outcast husband, a eunuch, one destitute of manly strength, or one afflicted with such diseases as punish crimes, shall neither be cast off nor be deprived of her property.
80. She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous, or wasteful, may at any time be superseded by another wife.
81. A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year, she whose children (all) die in the tenth, she who bears only daughters in the eleventh, but she who is quarrelsome without delay.
82. But a sick wife who is kind (to her husband) and virtuous in her conduct, may be superseded (only) with her own consent and must never be disgraced.
83. A wife who, being superseded, in anger departs from (her husband's) house, must either be instantly con ned or cast o in the presence of the family.
84. But she who, though having been forbidden, drinks spirituous liquor even at festivals, or goes to public spectacles or assemblies, shall be ned six krishnalas.
85. If twice-born men wed women of their own and of other (lower castes), the seniority, honour, and habitation of those (wives) must be (settled) according to the order of the castes (varna). 
86. Among all (twice-born men) the wife of equal caste alone, not a wife of a di erent caste by any means, shall personally attend her husband and assist him in his daily sacred rites. 
87. But he who foolishly causes that (duty) to be performed by another, while his wife of equal caste is alive, is declared by the ancients (to be) as (despicable) as a Kandala (sprung from the) Brahmana (caste).
88. To a distinguished, handsome suitor (of) equal (caste) should (a father) give his daughter in accordance with the prescribed rule, though she have not attained (the proper age). 
89. (But) the maiden, though marriageable, should rather stop in (the father's) house until death, than that he should ever give her to a man destitute of good qualities. 
90. Three years let a damsel wait, though she be marriageable; but after that time let her choose for herself a bridegroom (of) equal (caste and rank). 
91. If, being not given in marriage, she herself seeks a husband, she incurs no guilt, nor (does) he whom she weds. 
92. A maiden who choses for herself, shall not take with her any ornaments, given by her father or her mother, or her brothers; if she carries them away, it will be theft.
93. But he who takes (to wife) a marriageable damsel, shall not pay any nuptial fee to her father; for the (latter) will lose his dominion over her in consequence of his preventing (the legitimate result of the appearance of) her enemies. 
94. A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would (otherwise) be impeded, (he must marry) sooner. 
95. The husband receives his wife from the gods, (he does not wed her) according to his
own will; doing what is agreeable to the gods, he must always support her (while she is) faithful.
96. To be mothers were women created, and to be fathers men; religious rites, therefore, are ordained in the Veda to be performed (by the husband) together with the wife. 
97. If, after the nuptial fee has been paid for a maiden, the giver of the fee dies, she shall be given in marriage to his brother, in case she consents.
98. Even a Sudra ought not to take a nuptial fee, when he gives away his daughter; for he who takes a fee sell his daughter, covering (the transaction by another name). 
99. Neither ancients nor moderns who were good men have done such (a deed) that, after promising (a daughter) to one man, they have her to another; 
100. Nor, indeed, have we heard, even in former creations, of such (a thing as) the covert sale
of a daughter for a xed price, called a nuptial fee. 
101. 'Let mutual fidelity continue until death,' this may be considered as the summary of the highest law for husband and wife. 
102. Let man and woman, united in marriage, constantly exert themselves, that (they may
not be) disunited (and) may not violate their mutual fidelity.
103. Thus has been declared to you the law for a husband and his wife, which is intimately connected with conjugal happiness, and the manner of raising offspring in times of calamity; learn (now the law concerning) the division of the inheritance. 
133. Between a son's son and the son of an (appointed) daughter there is no diff erence, neither with respect to worldly matters nor to sacred duties; for their father and mother both
sprang from the body of the same (man). 
134. But if, after a daughter has been appointed, a son be born (to her father), the division (of the inheritance) must in that (case) be equal; for there is no right of primogeniture for a woman.
135. But if an appointed daughter by accident dies without (leaving) a son, the husband
of the appointed daughter may, without hesitation, take that estate.
173. If one marries, either knowingly or unknowingly, a pregnant (bride), the child in her womb belongs to him who weds her, and is called (a son) received with the bride (Sahodha).
175. If a woman abandoned by her husband, or a widow, of her own accord contracts a second marriage and bears (a son), he is called the son of a re-married woman (Paunarbhava). 
176. If she be (still) a virgin, or one who returned (to her first husband) after leaving him, she is worthy to again perform with her second(or first deserted) husband the (nuptial) ceremony.

Woman is to make her body beautiful by adorning it with clothes and ornaments; that the man may be attracted by her. Woman is to be so worshipped that she be made a fitting decoration for the man’s bedroom. This is the law of Manu. Manu has nothing to say of the rights of woman.

The laws of Manusmrithi consider woman to be an individual forever bound by the chains of family relationships, with no rights of her own. The verses of the fifth chapter starting from 147 to 169 are all about the woman. Even if she were to become a widow in her youth, she is not to marry again. Even if her husband indulges in adultery, she is still to consider him on equal footing with God. However, the woman who commits in adultery was to be thrown to the dogs in public. Woman is not entitled to any share in the wealth of the family. The wages for her labor will be half that of the man. So goes the laws of Manusmrithi concerning woman.
 Indeed, such laws stand as an obstacle in the creation of a sound society and, for that reason, and that reason alone, will remain impracticable forever. Is the ruling of the Manu Smrithi.


Reference:
1.  Pant, Rameshowri. 2011. Manusmriti Kai Batoma Samaj. Accessed at http://www.ekantipur.com/np/2068/9/20/full-story/340690.html
2. Jaishankar, K. & Haldar, D. 2004 Manusmriti: A Critique of the Criminal Justice Tenets in the Ancient Indian Hindu Code. Accessed at http://www.erces.com/journal/articles/archives/v03/v03_05.htm 
3.Translation by G. Bühler (1886). Sacred Books of the East: The Laws of Manus (Vol. 25). Oxford. Available online as The Laws of Manu at http://www.hindubooks.org/manusmriti.pdf
4. http://www.bhagwanvalmiki.com/manu-smriti.htm
5. Manusmṛti http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manu_Smriti
6. Abul Kasem, Women in Hindu Purans, http://avijit.humanists.net/article/women_in_hindu_purans.htm
7. Sita Agrawal, 1999. Genocide of women in Hinduism. Accessed from http://dalithsvshinduism.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/genocide-of-women-in-hinduism-by-sita.html

7 comments:

  1. Hi Laxmi,
    Wonderful essay about subordination and exploitation of women in Indian subcontinent (esp:Nepal) because of "manusmrithi".
    I really appreciate your effort to mention the facts point wise, I can image the amount of effort which went into writing this.

    I was searching for some reference on net to counter the views on "manusmrithi" in "Judiciary of India " article in wikipedia. I did mention your article as reference there, when I found glorifying of manusmirithi which I edited to reality. Thanks,and please keep writing these kind of excellent bold articles, Bravo !!

    Naveen

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    Replies
    1. Dear Naveen ji,

      Apology in getting back to you very late. Thank you so much for dropping your kind words and also referencing my blog in your write up. Appreciated.

      Am not quite sure whether or not you've came across with the article titled "Genocide of Women in Hinduism" by Sita Agarwal an Indian lady written in the memory of her late younger sister, who was murdered as a result of a dowry-related incident while in full blossom of youth. If you haven't then here is the link http://asimiqbal2nd.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/women-in-hinduism.pdf from where you can access the article written thoughtfully analysing detail about the root causes of Hindu scriptures that discriminated women in our part of the world.

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. hi,
    I AM AROHI from banglore , Indian. I am in tenth grade right now and have this project about social status of women in INDIAN sub-continent.
    your write up really helped me in my project !! thank you !!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Miss Laxmi,

    I am kirtan, i understand your point of view and i really appreciate you. in this present situation don't you think, how women are growing up. they are telling themself to be broad minded but they can't wash the plate they eat. For the propose of exposing body and following western culture i don't think women should get that much of right.

    ReplyDelete