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The Supreme Court’s positive decision to allow women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple has led to a new beginning. Age-old practices and customs which bear no meaning should have no existence in society. Orthodox beliefs which deprive women of their basic rights should be protested against.
All the violence during the Sabarimala protests suggests that despite years of education teaching us to respect women and believe in equality, several people’s orthodox mentality does not seem to have changed much after all.
“Attaching impurity to a woman during the menstrual period is an abrasion to entire humanity and abhorrent to civilised society as menstruation is a natural process and is essential for procreation,” Kerala government said on the Sabarimala review petitions, in a written submission in the Supreme Court.
On behalf of the state, senior advocate Vijay Hansaria submitted that this exclusionary practice is of the worst kind and “is an anathema to humanity itself apart from being stigmatic and oppressive”, reported The Wire.
The submission further stated that the protection under Article 26 of the Constitution of India, which is meant to manage religious affairs, was not available to devotees of a particular deity or temple, but to “every religious denomination or section thereof”.
Hansaria and advocate Sneha Kalita prepared the submission. It said that it has been consistently held by the top court that a ‘religious denomination’ which basically fulfils the criteria of a common organization, common faith and a distinctive name’s designation on having right under Article 26 of the Constitution. It said that the devotees of the Sabarimala Temple, however, do not fulfil the criteria. According to a submission by the state government, the temple is open for all worshippers, no matter what their age, except for the days Mandalam, Makaeavilakku and Vishnu.
From centuries certain beliefs have been lingering on in our society. One reason behind menstruating women not entering the temple is that Lord Ayyappa, who is the temple deity, is considered to be a celibate, and this nature of the deity does not allow women to enter the Sabarimala temple. Even after the apex court has ruled that women of any age have to be allowed entry, many still do not go inside in fear of incurring the wrath of Lord Ayyappa.
Another reason is that girls and women from the age of 10 to 50 are considered to fall under the menstruating age, and ancient customs say that women who are menstruating are “impure” at that particular time. Hindus usually believe that women must not enter a temple while they are menstruating, and a Sabarimala temple priest had once said that since it cannot be checked whether a woman entering the temple is menstruating or not, it is best that they are barred from entering it.
These baseless customs have denied women of the menstruating age entry into the temple for centuries until the Supreme Court’s recent verdict on the same.
However, the submission said that only the presence of a woman of a particular age group cannot possibly affect the deity’s celibacy. The argument, it said, is derogatory for a woman, and suggests that even a 10-year-old child is a “source of deviation” for the celibacy of the deity.
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