Sabrimala Temple Case: Denial of Equality Since Ages
– Ms. Himani Jaruhar (Student NLUO)
Sabrimala Temple, the second largest seasonal pilgrim centre located in Neelimala hills at western ghats of Kerela is in news owing to its entry provision that prohibits women between age of 10-50 from access to worship on account of purity under rule 3(b) of Kerela Hindu Places of worship (Authorization of entry) rules 1965 that arises the question whether religious tradition is acting as a hindrance to the rights of women. The Tranvancore Devasworm Board, which manages the shrine, cites the vow of celibacy taken by Lord Ayyappa, the impurity associated with menstruation and requirement of a 41 day penance as a justification for this prohibition.
The Indian Young Lawyer association filed a PIL contending that rule 3(b) violates constitutional guarantees of equality, non-discrimination and religious freedom (Article 14, 15 & 25(1)). A group of women who are a part of the “HAPPY TO BLEED CAMPAIGN” has also sought the courts direction on whether society should continue to bear with menstrual discrimination. The 5 judge constitutional bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court holds the opinion that the reasons cited by the managing board for prohibiting women is contrary to the text and spirit of the Constitution.
This current issue is related to the previous landmark verdicts by Bombay High Court over the issue of female worshipers being barred at religious places such as Haji Ali Dargah and Shani Shingnapur temple the Bombay High Court struck down the ban on women entry in the Haji Ali Dargah inner sanctum ensuring the compliance of women’s fundamental rights and assuring the protection of female devotees, also the Shani Shinganapur temple barred the entry of women for centuries before the Bombay High Court ruled that this practice violates the Fundamental Rights of women and nothing can stop women from entering into a public place where there is no restriction for men.
The two women Phushpak Kewadhar and Priyanka Jagtap took immense courage to desecrate the century old restriction by climbing on shani platform as a gesture to end the illogical ban on the entry of women, if the temple is a public place of worship where a man can go, then women also have complete right to enter there. The prohibition on the entry of women of particular age group must not be misunderstood as a struggle to undermine religious faith or sabotage Lord Ayyappa’s vow of celibacy but as a struggle to ensure that we do not reside in a society that continues to deny women equal moral memberships of the community by referring to the ideas of purity and pollution.
This whole issue ignites the question whether the custom, even if it is essential to religion, could undermine the equality granted by the Indian constitution. This is not the first time that the women were denied right to entry into a holy place on the name religious practices and customs. The question here arises that whether unreasonable religious practices and customs are above the Indian Constitution? India is busy in celebrating its 72nd Independence Day and the institutions echoes with the speeches enchanting the rights that our constitution provides by granting every citizen the fundamental rights but the above mentioned practices prevalent in our society still questions the gender equality and the fact that are we actually ensured this rights or its just limited to the certain aspects of the society.