- There are a myriad of traditions and customs that are part of the various religions people practice in India. For eg, Muslim women are not allowed entry in many mosques, certain sects of Christian priests and nuns are not allowed to marry, Jains are not allowed to eat non-vegetarian food, so on and so forth. Why does the Supreme Court turn a blind eye to all of these and intervenes and meddles only with Hindu traditions?
is less about traditions, and more about a citizen’s individual right to worship – a right which was being curbed by law. Muslim women are denied entry in some mosques wherein it is beyond the scope of any kind of interference from the top court. This is because they have restrained women from a purely religious perspective, but not by law. Hence the Supreme Court cannot interfere, just like it has no say in the customs of other religions. However, this is not the case with Sabarimala. In Sabarimala, women have been prohibited entry by Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (authorisation of entry) Rules, 1965; women are denied entry by law. And denying any individual, man, woman or transgender from entering any place of worship is diametrically opposite to the fundamental rights of a citizen in a democratic country like India. Hence the apex court has decided to lift the ban created ‘by law’ and has left the rest to the religious laws and practices that people believe in. The constitution does not believe in prohibiting anyone from their basic rights as a citizen of this democratic country. Period.
- Why tamper with age-old traditions? Can’t we let religious beliefs and associated customs be allowed to maintain their status-quo?
Breast Tax, Child Marriage, Temple entry ban for Dalits, Sati and many other such customs and traditions were age-old at the time of their abolishment. It is imperative to see the reasoning behind each custom, and whether it is not just logical but also relevant in the current era and decide if it needs to be continued or not. Blindly following any tradition just because it has been handed down through generations from cave-men times, is just against evolution of any kind – be it cultural, societal or mental.
(Having said that, I also want to mention the history behind Sabarimala. First of all, it is already known that Sabarimala used to allow women in the past. There are records of Queen of Travancore attending choroonu ceremonies in 1939, and that an informal ban came into existence in late 20th century and it was enforced strictly only from 1991 following the case of S.Mahendran vs. Travancore Devaswom Board. There are also historical evidences that point to the fact that Sabarimala was once a Buddhist temple which was demolished and built as an abode for Ayyappa much later. So to preserve age-old traditions, how about reverting it back to a Buddhist temple?!)
- Matters of faith need not be interspersed with constitutional rights. The court does not have to interfere in religious belief systems.
Wrong. In this country nothing and nobody is (rather, ‘should be’) above the constitution, and the same holds good for religions and their gods as well. And as per Religious Freedom Clause Article 25, the constitution guarantees the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, to ALL persons. The keyword being ALL and that includes women too, obviously. The article also allows the state to make laws “regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.” If it makes opponents of this verdict happy, they could look at the case of Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque in Mumbai where women weren’t allowed entry by law and the Supreme Court struck it down by a similar verdict. The key thing to understand is the constitutional rights of an individual is much higher than any religious right or belief. The verdicts pertaining to ‘Triple Talaq, Decriminalising extra-marital relationships, legalizing same-sex marriages corroborate the same.
- If it is about gender equality there are many other issues that the court needs to pay attention to, how can allowing women into a temple engender women empowerment in any way?
First and foremost, entry ban in Sabarimala for women is because they menstruate. Hence women aged 10-55 are not allowed and others are. Menstruating women are not considered pure enough to enter the sacred walls where Lord Ayyappa who is a bachelor resides. At least that’s what the myth says. Discrimination in the name of menstruation – the sole reason why life even exists on earth – is not discrimination just against women, it is against life itself. If even in a place of worship women are discriminated, and we allow that, how will they be treated elsewhere? Fight against such discriminations should start from the basics, from the most sacred of places.
- People must understand and respect the myth behind disallowing women in Sabarimala and not meddle with matters of gods.
Though the myth professes about ‘impure’ menstruating women desanctifying the chastity of the bachelor Lord Ayyappa, the real reason is the fact that centuries before the whole area surrounding Sabarimala was dense forest. It was impractical and difficult for a woman to traverse the wilderness and reach the deity at the top of the mountain, during her menstruating days. It was more a matter of practicality than of impurity. It is disheartening to know that people of this generation fail to see this simple logic and choose to go with blind superstitions. And now that there are much better roads and transportation available, it only makes sense that women enter Sabarimala without much ado.
- There are many other temples which allow women. Why be adamant about entering Sabarimala itself which is the only temple that disallows entry of women?
‘Entry in all other temples are okay, but not in one’ is precisely the reason why this is important. If universally no temples allowed women, Sabarimala wouldn’t have raised as many eye-brows any way. This is precisely why in the verdict, the CJI observed that Ayyappa devotees do not constitute a separate religious denomination and that exclusionary practice (denial of entry to women in Sabarimala) is neither an essential nor an integral part of the Hindu religion without which the Hindu religion, will not survive.
- Why is it that Hindu women themselves are against this more than anyone else?
When many of the above said social, cultural and religious attrocities were banned, they also created havoc. This is because in most such cases the oppressed themselves are oblivious of the shackles they are bound by. And it’s up to the rest of the sensible clan around them to step up and talk some sense into their ears. Even if it’s not welcomed now, the coming generations would be grateful for the precedent that has been set for their good.
The most important thing to keep in mind is, the Supreme Court only struck down the ban caused by Rule 3(b), meaning it doesn’t believe in legally stopping anyone from entering Sabarimala. It is not like the Supreme Court is forcing anyone to go to Sabarimala if it’s against their beliefs. Anyone is equally free to go or refrain from it. Just like beef logic, if you do not want, you don’t have to eat it. But that doesn’t mean you have to be offended if someone else eats beef. Live and let live.