The issue is consent. Does the woman really consent to it? Does she really want it for cultural-religious reasons? If so, the law should not stop her. It’s her life, it’s not the business of the law. If, however, women are being FORCED to do it, if they don’t genuinely consent, then it is appropriate for the law to PROTECT them from being used and harmed. See the difference? The law should protect the right of autonomy and free choice of the individual.
There are some problems. It might be too difficult to identify when a woman truly wants this and when she is being forced,
- because we may not have sufficient knowledge of what is happening on location in each case and
- because even if the woman is not physically compelled, she may FEAR being outcast and perhaps fear that her life will be under threat.
To be clear, I think Sati is a bad thing, even if it’s voluntary. I think it is overwhelmingly based on patriarchal premises and social forces and should be undermined and stopped. It would be appropriate, in my opinion, to try to persuade people through various means to change this cultural practice, both not to do it and not to pressure others to do it. This is not the law, this is PERSUASION. There is nothing wrong with that. You might use radio, TV to change people’s attitudes. Maybe you could help women who don’t want to do it to escape their villages and find work elsewhere. Maybe just having alternatives to being in the village after the passing of her husband would help. I don’t know.
This is a complex problem that requires study of incentives, anthropological study, and trial and error. It also requires a fine appropriation of the idea of consent and how to establish whether it exists. I don’t know the answer.
If your guiding principle is the idea of consent and using the law to protect people from being FORCED to do something against their choice, what should be your position on Sati?
(I would appreciate if people cited laws, case studies, scholars, etc. in the comments so we can establish some facts before exchanging mere opinions.)