The Bhagawat Gita has occupied a central role in Sanatan Dharam for ages. The verses of this Holy book are flawless in terms of language and grammar. Bhagawat Gita is not only meant for reading, but to be carefully interpreted in the correct context in order to deduce a coherent and valid explanation of the philosophy. Consequently, one can interpret a single verse of Bhagawat Gita in several ways based on his/her capability to comprehend the context which the specific verse deals with.
And there indeed have been few wrong interpretations. The most popular of those being “Verse 32, Chapter 9”, and even Prabhupada has made a wrong interpretation of the same in his work “Bhagawat Gita As It Is”. This is one of the most read explanations of Gita by people across the globe and his explanation is all around the internet. It’s being quoted by many to prove that Shri Krishna considered women to be of low birth in Gita.
Here’s the Verse, (Chapter 9, Verse 32):
मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्यु: पापयोनय: |
स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् || 32||
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśhritya ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśhyās tathā śhūdrās te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim
Let me now post Prabhupada’s explanation word to word: [LINK HERE]
mām — of Me; hi — certainly; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; vyapāśritya — particularly taking shelter; ye — those who; api — also; syuḥ — are; pāpa-yonayaḥ — born of a lower family; striyaḥ — women; vaiśyāḥ — mercantile people; tathā — also; śūdrāḥ — lower-class men; te api — even they; yānti — go; parām — to the supreme; gatim — destination.
O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth — women, vaiśyas [merchants] and śūdras [workers] — can attain the supreme destination.
Notice the word papa-yonayah (पापयोनय: ) - meaning - Born of a lower family. Now in the translation Prabhupada combines this word with the next three and says; people of lower birth are - women, vaishya and sudrah. Here’s another site following the similar line of thinking as Prabhupada. [LINK HERE]. Here the translator combines papa-yonayah with next word striyo to again get the wrong explanation and makes it “born of lower woman”.
If Krishna were to speak of women, he would have said, "papa yonayah, stribhi..". It was wrong to combine papa-yonayah with other 3 words by Prabhupada, or with just stribho by the other site. This is the main reason for confusion.
This verse tells: O Son of Pritha, anyone who takes shelter in me, sinners, women, traders, workers, can approach the supreme destination.
In other words, word to word translation of Sanskrit to English not only dilutes the meaning, but it also distorts.
Jai Shri Krishna!