My personal views regarding questions (a) & (b), in relation to a storied assignment in one of my Sociology classes here at Sinclair Community College, (Spring 2020 semester).
Before I conducted a bit of research on this practice, I was vaguely familiar with this practice of Sati, through a wonderful book entitled, “The City of Joy”
(I forget the author’s name), which told quite a heart wrenching story of Mother Teresa’s work with lepers and the poor amongst the slums & streets of Calcutta, India.
The cultural practice of “Sati” whereupon a newly widowed bride in India was obligated to sacrifice herself by throwing herself upon her deceased husband’s funeral pyre, to be consumed by the flames, along with her dead husband, originated from one of the mythological stories within the Hindu pantheon of the vast array of Gods & Goddesses.
Sati was a Goddess who represented all of the feminine energy in the universe. The Creator God, Brahma created her to be the wife of Shiva, the Destroyer God.
To make a long story short, Sati & Shiva were so in love, which is a good thing! Anyway, much as it is with any girl’s choice of guy, her father (who was a king) did not like Shiva, and was always trying to push his daughter Sati off on many other guys, but brave, strong, determined Sati, wasn’t going for it.
One evening at a party that her father organized in order to mock, belittle and deface a statue of Shiva in front of all of the guests at the party to their great amusement, Sati became so distraught by her fathers betrayal, that she then and there renounced all of her association with not only her father, but life itself, whereupon she sat down on the ground, proceeded to envision Shiva until she went into a mystic trance, and did a series of yogic exercises until she burst into flames.
Her husband Shiva naturally, was totally devastated by this, but HE didn’t decide to self immolate by jumping into a fire, nor drinking from a poisoned flask, or even pushing a poison adder to his breast.
HE embraces Sati’s lifeless body for awhile until he decides to go into his usual comfort zone of meditation, knowing that he could still be with his beloved in spirit, if not body.
Now it’s hard to calculate just how many poor women were forced to sacrifice themselves in the horrific cultural practice of “SATI” since its inception quite a number of years ago, but even after British colonial rule, Queen Victoria only “denounced” the practice in the late 1800s.
Even though the practice was slowly “phasing out” as British influence continued to spread, it wasn’t until 1988 when “The Sati Prevention Act” was passed and the practice was outlawed altogether.
My professor asks me:
(a) “Do you think it is a good thing that sati was outlawed, or a bad thing?
My answer : “Yes, I believe it is a good thing that the cultural practice of “SATI” was outlawed.
This was the ultimate evil, patriarchal subjugation of women I’ve ever heard of. These precious women were physically, psychologically, and economically coerced into this cruel, barbaric, selfish (on not only the part of the husband and his family – but quite often the wife’s family as well) act of horrific TORTURE.
My professor asks me:
(b) “Should the US allow for practices like sati to be protected by religious freedom? Or is there a limit to religious freedom — and if so, what is that limit and who gets to decide what it is?”
My answer: The United States should not even consider allowing a practice like “SATI” to be protected under the Religious Freedom Act, or ANY other circumstance, for that matter.
I think that limits on religious freedom are necessary and essential in order to protect the personal health, freedom, and lives of innocent, vulnerable people who fall victim to many religious beliefs, customs and rituals around the world — in particular, female circumcision!
The examples are many:
* Christian Scientists who withhold medical attention for their sick children in favor of “prayer”.
* Christian evangelists who handle live, poisonous snakes in preaching rituals, etc…
John (Joni) Salyers