Since May, one movement which has created uproar across the country, amongst all religious groups, is the Right to Pray movement, which demanded entry of women into temples and shrines, where they were earlier barred. Women across the country demanded entry to Shani Shani Shingnapur, Mahalakshmi Temple and Haji Ali Dargah in Maharashtra and Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, among others. With the protests gaining significant momentum across the country, women were able to gain entry into the first two temples.
Yesterday, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala today informed the Supreme Court that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple. The counsel for the state government, which had earlier supported the ban on women’s entry in the temple in its additional affidavit filed in July this year, told the apex court it will now go by its original response filed in 2007, favouring entry of women in the temple premises. The bench, which has now fixed the matter for hearing on 13 February 2017, said the stand of the government is not the final one as it will take a decision after deliberating upon various aspects including the constitutional provisions with regard to gender equality. The apex court had observed that women are conferred rights under the Constitution and it would pass a detailed order in case the matter is referred to a five-judge constitution bench. The management of the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Pathanamthitta district, had earlier told the court that the ban on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years was because they cannot maintain “purity” on account of menstruation.
#RightToPray is an issue which traverses various social issues- those of untouchability, gender discrimination, and violation of basic constitutional rights. Women have been subjugated for centuries in India in every sphere of life, and religious domains are not an exception.
Earlier, Dr Ranjana Kumari had given a statement regarding this issue “I believe that religion and faith is your own belief between you and your God. These are matters which are very personal. It is when these religious clergymen who have become some sort of middlemen between the God and the human, that problems and controversies arise. Women’s Right to equality against discrimination has been guaranteed by the constitution of India under article 14 of the Constitution. To ban women from going to a place of worship, is in direct violation of this principle.”
Women have been denied various religious rights over many centuries, and it is high time that these age old traditions are challenged and changed. We at CSR, are happy that governments are thinking about this issue, and altering their views about the same. Only when both civil society organizations and government work together, can change truly come about.
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