What is chastity

The concept is chastity is very significant in religious, social and family relationship. This is closely associated with character of both men and women. The term is derived from 'chaste', which means 'pure, undiluted, unadulterated'. Thus 'chaste English' means standard Queen's English.  'chasten' means correction by punishment. The term is originated from Greek 'castus' that means 'pure'. chastity means virginity. What is virginity? When we talk of virgin land, we mean 'land that has not yet been tilled'.  Similarly, virginity or chastity of a man as well as a woman implies that he or she has so far had no sexual relations.

Hindu Tradition

Chastity is inseparable from Hindu traditional life cycle. Human life is divided in ashrams or stages- Brahmacharya ashram (celibacy or chastity). Every individual till age of twenty five years is a celibate or virgin. He has to abstain from sex during Brahmacharya phase of life. This period is for learning and preparing for next phase viz. Grihasthashram (householder). This is from age of twenty five years to fifty years. During this period, one raises and maintains family. Extra marital relation is prohibited during this phase whereas there can be no sexual relation in the first phase viz. Brahmacharya. The life cycle from fifty to seventy years is Van Prastha. During this phase, one leads a pious life in forest and abstains from sex. But he is available for consultation to his family. The last phase is sanyas ashram in which one severs all links with society and solely devotes his time and energy to attain higher goal of salvation.

Christian tradition 

Chastity is considered as one of the seven virtues. chastity means sexual purity implies utmost fidelity to spouse. Thus extra marital sex is a deadly sin. Sex between unmarried persons was known as fornication. Now this term is out of use and instead premarital and extramarital sex are the terms used. In some circumstances, there is breach of chastity even in marital relation. Many religions consider sexual intimacy unchaste during or shortly after menstruation or birth of a child. There is a form of chastity called 'vidual chastity'  that requires a widow to abstain from sex during the period of mourning. Also some churches consider use of contraceptives as being unchaste. Mother Teresa was also opposed to use of contraceptives. There is tradition of celibacy or virginity in monasteries.

Tradition of chastity biased against women 

In principle, men and women both need to observe chastity. But in practice, this has never been fair to the fair sex. Men can often easily afford premarital and extra marital sex without any difficulty. All they need is maintain secrecy. Many even  boast of their extramarital relation. This is not significant for men unless they are monks, priests or hermits. There is no side affect of loss of chastity on men. They go scot free. But women fear pregnancy. When an unmarried woman is pregnant, every one knows her sin whereas man moves freely.

Besides, woman has always been considered as mere property.  Man's chastity is at his own discretion. Chaste or unchaste, there is nobody rto question. But a woman is not an independent entity. She is considered as a commodity. She must remain chaste or unused for her husband, who owns him. A girl's parents consider her as 'paraya dhan' (other's property) that needs to be handed over intact and chaste to her groom- her rightful owner just as one sells a commodity in brand new condition.

Needless to say, the Sati system is a byproduct of  stress on female chastity. a husband is owner of woman's body. so, nobody may use her even after his death. So, a woman was burnt alive with her husband's dead body. It goes to credit of Rraja Ram Mohan Roy, a great social reformer that this inhuman tradition was checked. The Johar system in Rajasthan ensured that women burnt themselves alive when at risk of capture by enemy. The Rajputs would like their women dead rather than be captured and used by enemy.

A device called chastity belt was used in some countries to ensure chastity of women. The chastity belt ensured that nobody could have sex with a woman. But some used tricks to unlock the chastity belts.  Chastity belts for men were also used but rarely. 

Conclusion 

We may conclude by saying that chastity is a matter of mutual trust between spouses. There should be no double standards about chastity- one for men and other for women. A woman is rightful owner of her own body and it is bizzare to think some one else- even her husband as owner thereof.  


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