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India's Colonization And The Banning Of Suttee

987 words - 4 pages

Debate Topic: The Civilizing Mission was a Just Enterprise
The suttee word was derived from the word Sati and it signifies a good woman who is ready to sacrifice herself by getting devoted to her husband. Although the true origin of the word is not very clear, the Greeks, the Scythians and the Indians were believed to have used it in some of their cultural activities. The major characteristic with this word is setting oneself ablaze from community’s pressure, or being set ablaze, especially in the case of widows or slaves, in front of one’s husband or master.
Burning of widows and slaves was a common practice in Asia and some parts of Europe until civilization started to influence such retrogressive cultures. Although the practice of suttee was not considered as a religious ritual, it was common among many Indian communities to practice it as part of their culture. Before the civilization process began, this practice was termed as appropriate and many communities were willing to sacrifice the widows as a way to pay tribute to their late husbands.
One of the ethical concerns with this practice is the termination of another person’s life for reasons that were unavoidable. Death of a husband is not something that a woman can control. However, a widow was forced to pay the price of her husband’s death through her own demise (Therborn 45). This was morally and ethically inappropriate and despite the support from the local communities, it was unacceptable and thanks to civilization, the truth finally dawned on these communities. The practice was allegedly performed as a way of a woman’s dedication to prove her virtuousness.
The other ethical concern associated with this practice is the discrimination of women in the society. Rather than being considered as equal to their men counterparts, women were regarded with contempt and taken like lesser humans. This issue of regarding women as lesser to men is an issue that triggered discrimination and mistreatment of women. The cultural backgrounds in the region affected the moral principles and ethical considerations of these communities leading to great atrocities among women.
The suttee practices were meant to portray heroism among women who were strong and willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their husbands and their communities (Therborn 48). Were it not for the civilization, these customs could have led to the deaths of many innocent women. Death of men in the society was seen as important enough to deserve the death of their widows just to make them complete. Women were therefore supposed to kill themselves in order to receive honor among the community. Women demonstrated courage and respect whenever they agreed to became suttees (Arnold and Robb 45).
The practice of becoming a suttee was also considered as a means of devotion and it was seen as important for the development of cultural values. However, the coming of civilization proved that there was a patriarchal oppression of...

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