It will no longer be enough for Parsi-Zoroastrian women who are married to non-Parsis and want to be interred at the Towers of Silence to write an affidavit in their lifetime that they were practicing Zoroastrians.
In a resolution passed last month, the community’s apex body Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) said that families of the women will have to sign affidavits after their death, swearing that the women practiced their maiden religion till the end.
BPP trustees said that the resolution was necessary to clear the confusion over the old rule. “A woman married to a non-Parsi can file an affidavit in her lifetime saying that she practiced Zoroastrianism after her marriage and later change her religion.
Since this did not make sense, we have said that after her death, h
er next-of-kin should submit an affidavit saying she had practiced the Zoroastrian religion till the end,” said Khojestee Mistree, a BPP trustee.
Mistree added that this did not mean that they will ask for two affidavits. There isa rule that families of inter-married women should submit the affidavit if the deceased is to be given a traditional funeral at the Towers of Silence at Malabar Hill, said Mistree.
The new resolution means that an affidavit signed by inter-married women swearing their loyalty to their old religion will not be enough for a funeral according to Zoroastrian rites.“We have not said anything radical. We have just streamlined the procedure,” he said.
Liberals said the resolution reeked of bias against women. “Even a man can adopt another religion; many go to Shirdi. Will they or their family members also be required to submit an affidavit stating they remained Zoroastrians in mind and spirit? They are humiliating women by making such rules,” said Jehangir Patel, editor of the liberal community weekly, Parsiana.
Napean Sea Road resident Goolrukh Gupta, who is a Parsi married to a non-Zoroastrian, asked, “Already more than 40% of Zoroastrians find marriage partners outside the community. How can they insist on this undertaking from women alone?”
Orthodox groups like World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ) said the BPP resolution gave a legal backing to an old community custom.
“When a woman undergoes a religious marriage with someone who is not from her community, it is assumed she has left her old religion. This is not so under the Special Marriage Act. This is something that has been there for years. I have never questioned it as a woman,” said Anahita Desai, WAPIZ.