Protection of women in ISKCON
Posted December 11, 2004
Most devotees have reacted to the painful letter of Rambhoru dasi, and Prithu Prabhu's recent letter attempting to understand his own insensitivity to others, by leaving it alone as a personal affair best settled between them in private in their own time, and I agree heartily with that opinion. This letter is in no way an attempt to analyze or comment on their personal situation.
What stands out like a sore thumb in the light of the pain and suffering endured by Rambhoru prabhu (who perhaps represents other similarly neglected women in ISKCON) is the Women in ISKCON resolution passed by the GBC only four years earlier promising to establish as "a priority" the care and protection of women in ISKCON.
In spite of this priority, not a single member of the GBC could come to the aid of this poor woman during her struggle to survive in ISKCON, nor her husband who was present at the passing of the resolution, nor any woman of the Women's Ministry, which was the body that authored this resolution, following an emotionally surcharged presentation to the GBC.
After the publication of the Women in ISKCON resolution, doubts were raised about the propriety and ability of GBC members actually to fulfill their promise of protection to women, and thus the realization came in the minds of many that this resolution was actually intended to promote the dubious priority of establishing gender equality in ISKCON's ecumenical affairs rather than the personal care and protection of women, a task which has always been indicated by Srila Prabhupada to be the responsibility of men within the family.
The promotion of what some have seen as a quasi-mundane political agenda innocently couched in language used by Srila Prabhupada to describe the all-important protection of women within the family has given this resolution the appearance of something less than total straight-forwardness and transparency. In addition, the resolution in question directly perpetuates a mistaken thinking amongst devotees that the ISKCON institution is the provider of welfare and protection to all its members, guaranteed. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in regard to married devotees. Rambhoru prabhu's letter, even if it were only 50 percent true, illustrates this all too well.
Therefore, it would be highly appropriate at this time for secretaries and deputies of the GBC to revisit this resolution, amending it to say clearly what the intended meaning really is, thus removing all ambiguous language which presently clouds over the very real difference between the issue of women's equal rights in ISKCON on the one hand, and the issue of personal care and protection of women on the other. The separation of these issues, and the removal of the oxymoronic GBC blanket promise to provide care and protection to women, is a must to empower ISKCON members in the grihastha ashram to develop the resolve to make successful marriages where women are happy, protected and enjoy fulfilling Krishna-conscious lives.