The Digambara Jain sect believes that women cannot achieve liberation without being reborn as men first while the Svetambara sect disagrees upon this.
Reasons behind such ideology:
- Digambara Jains hold this view because they believe that nakedness is an essential element of the road to liberation.
- Mahavira himself, whose life shows Jains the way to liberation, set an example of total nudity that Digambaras believe monks should follow. Since women are not allowed to be naked in public they cannot achieve liberation directly, and so are seen as second-class citizens.
- Naked women would feel ashamed of being naked and the feeling of shame would hinder their progress to liberation.
- Ahimsa and women
- Digambaras also believe that women are inherently harmful. This comes partly from a belief that menstrual blood kills micro-organisms living in the female body. The killing of the microorganisms is said to show that a female body is less non-violent than a male body – although that idea doesn’t have any scientific support and isn’t found in modern Jain thinking.
- Another argument is that because a woman’s nature is to care for children and other dependants, she will find it much more difficult to break free from these earthly attachments, and unless she does this, she cannot achieve liberation.
The above stand on the “Liberation” for woman in Jainism is not accepted by shvethambar sect. They believe that Woman can also attain moksha. They do justify this fact by stating that, Mallinath (19th thirthankar) was female.