In­dia’s top court scraps ban on women en­ter­ing fa­mous Hindu tem­ple

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

In­dia’s top court on Fri­day re­voked a ban on women en­ter­ing a fa­mous Hindu tem­ple fol­low­ing a decades-long le­gal bat­tle, rul­ing that pa­tri­archy can­not be al­lowed to trump faith.

The de­ci­sion is the lat­est by the Supreme Court in re­cent weeks to re­flect a more lib­eral out­look in the largely con­ser­va­tive and tra­di­tional so­ci­ety of 1.25 bil­lion peo­ple.

Women in In­dia have been in­ten­si­fy­ing cam­paigns in re­cent years to be al­lowed to en­ter Hindu tem­ples and other re­li­gious sites.

The Ayyappa tem­ple in Sabari­mala – the sub­ject of Fri­day’s rul­ing and con­sid- ered one of the holi­est for Hin­dus – has tra­di­tion­ally barred all women of men­stru­at­ing age, be­tween 10 and 50.

The tem­ple’s rule em­anated from the still widely held be­lief in In­dia that men­stru­at­ing women are im­pure. In ru­ral pock­ets of the coun­try, many women are still made to sleep and eat sep­a­rately dur­ing men­stru­a­tion.

The cus­tom in the tem­ple in the south­ern state of Ker­ala was chal­lenged by a clutch of pe­ti­tion­ers who ar­gued that women can­not be de­nied the con­sti­tu­tional right to wor­ship.

“To treat women as chil­dren of a lesser god is to blink at the con­sti­tu­tion it­self,” said Jus­tice D. Y. Chan­drachud, part of the five-judge bench that gave a ma­jor­ity ver­dict on Fri­day.

Chief Jus­tice of In­dia Di­pak Misra said ban­ning the en­try of a large sec­tion of women was dis­crim­i­na­tory and vi­o­lated their rights.

“Pro­hibit­ing women [ from en­ter­ing the tem­ple] vi­o­lates the right of a woman to wor­ship and prac­tise re­li­gion,” he said.

While most Hindu tem­ples don’t al­low women to en­ter when they are men­stru­at­ing, the tem­ple, com­monly known as Sabari­mala, was one of a few that did not al­low any woman of men­stru­at­ing age.

Indu Mal­ho­tra, the only woman judge on the bench, dis­sented with the ma­jor­ity ver­dict, say­ing courts must not in­ter­fere with is­sues con­cern­ing “deep re­li­gious sen­ti­ments.”

The case made head­lines last month when a re­gional newspaper ed­i­tor blamed dev­as­tat­ing floods in Ker­ala on women want­ing to en­ter Sabari­mala.

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