“As ban of entry of women into temples,

“As
a devotee, I think God do not have any 
special conditions for any of his creations, and as a woman and a
citizen I think my right to enter the temple is questioned here. It’s a clear
and sheer discrimination with me and my rights.”


Suneetha Balakrishnan

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Abstract :

According to a believer God is
everywhere but if a woman finds her faith in a temple idol, how can tradition
stand in the way of her right to worship, this was the first question that was posed by the Supreme Court
to the Sabarimala authorities on the “class grievance” of women denied entry at
the Kerala temple, presided over by a celibate deity. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees
to all persons the right to “freely profess, practice, and propagate religion”,
but most of the time what we is, that these rights are infringed and the
perpetuator have various reasons with which he supports his arguments. Not
surprisingly, most women do not object to these issues because they have been
made to believe that what has been done till date and what still continues is
for there best only. As today there is a dearth of laws aimed at safeguarding
the rights of women, therefore the right of a women to worship at temple is
always given a back seat, and the law that exists today are not so effective,
which is a serious lacuna against this background and is required to be
attended. This article will focus on the ban of entry of women into temples,
and the problem that why this issue should be paid heed.

 

Introduction :

The
restriction on women to enter the places of religious worship has now became a
contentious issue of the time. This is not the case that has came up suddenly,
such practices have been persisting in India from time immemorial1, but the awareness and the movements
across the nation have recently espoused these concerns, leading to several
petitions and appeals filed before the High Courts and the Supreme Court.2 The right to freedom of religion and
practising, professing and propagating it freely, subject to reasonable
restrictions under the Constitution, forms the backbone of our secular country.3 Ensuring gender equality and striving
towards a more inclusive society is also a salient feature of our Constitution.
And who would have thought that the right to pray would be something to be
debated upon? Cases involving the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, the Shani
Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra and the Haji Ali Dargah, where women have been
denied access to the inner shrine, have brought this issue into the limelight.
Going with the wind and encouraging the trend, courts have upheld the rights of
women to equality and freedom of religion, thus trying to end the years old
custom and striking down the restrictions imposed. In a landmark decision, the
Bombay High Court permitted the entry of women entry into the sanctum sanctorum
at the Haji Ali Dargah in 2016, terming the ban on entry unconstitutional.4 Superseding various constitutional
principles
and provisions, the Bombay High Court dismissed the protectionist approach
adopted by the state towards gender equality, reaffirming the state’s
constitutional obligation to guarantee equality and non-discrimination.5

Hypocrisy continues :

 

In Indian, a vast section of Hindu men
are an ardent devotee of goddesses.6 Be it goddesses like Durga, Kali, or
Mahalakshmi, the popular among female deities, one can never escape the
astonishing sight of large swarming of men in these women goddesses temples. No
wonder, men of all ages worship them as mother goddesses and believe them as
Devi or Adi-Shakti and not like any other ordinary women. Men often, keeps
their daughters names on women goddesses names like Durga, Parvati, Lakshmi,
Saraswati etc but surprisingly, the same men fraternity disregard the dignity
of a woman by imposing prohibitory rules on her in case of temple entry. More
correct to say, prohibiting women from entering the inner sanctum of some
famous temples in India. What makes a man naming his daughter on female goddesses
names when he do not give equal rights of worshipping to his daughter, who is a
woman and more so, make it conditional for her when to offer prayers and when
not? Men can worship the yoni (private part) of a renowned goddess Kamakhya or
to say, a bleeding goddess7 but prohibits a menstruating woman
from entering the inner sanctum of the temples. What an irony that women are
restricted from offering prayers even though women are no less devotees than
men. Undoubtedly, patriarchy has won too, over subjugating women in matters of
worshipping and snatching away her very rights from entering the temples.
Devotees of all ages and irrespective, of genders should be allowed to offer
prayers in the inner sanctum because it makes them feel close proximity to the
god or goddesses they worship. After all, it is a matter of one’s devotion and
not regulation.8

 

The demand for right to worship at
religious places to all classes has long been a part of the larger struggle for
social reform in India. Initially begun as a movement towards seeking equality
for Dalits with other upper castes, it has now also embraced within its scope
women who seek parity with men in access to public places of worship.9 Across the religious divide, women
are staking their claim to equality and creating an imprint on one of the
strongest bastions of patriarchy. Whether any authority governing a place of
public worship is empowered to prohibit women’s entry, in clear violation of
the constitutional mandate of equality, is the issue which need the prior
attention.

1 Adrija Roychowdhury, Women ‘Polluting’ Religious
Spaces: How the Idea Came About (18 May, 2017),
http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/women-polluting-religious-spaces-how-the-idea-came-about/.

2 Reuters in
Delhi, Indian Temples Cannot Bar Women, Rules Supreme Court, (12 April 2017),
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/12/indian-temples-cannot-bar-
women-rules-supreme-court .

3 Ruhi Bhasin, Shani
Shingnapur Row: Allow Women Entry to Temples, says Bombay HC ( 31 March 2016),
http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/women-cant-be-barred-from-entering-shani-shinganapur-temple-bombay-hc/.

4 Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz v. State of
Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 5394, https://sabrangindia.in/sites/default/files/160826_haji-ali-judgment.pdf?584.

5 Satya Prasoon,
The Sabarimala Case Has the Potential to Be a Constitutional Watershed,
November 7, 2016, https://thewire.in/77640/sabrimala-temple-case-constitutional-watershed/.

6  Meenakshi
Gogoi, Discrimination
Against Women’s Right To Temple Entry In India: A
Critique (2 November 2017), http://www.countercurrents.org/gogoi260516.htm.

7 Anwesha, Kamakhya Temple: Story Of A Bleeding Devi (2 November 2017,
4:34 AM),
https://www.boldsky.com/yoga-spirituality/faith-mysticism/2013/kamakhya-temple-story-032807.html

8 Meenakshi
Gogoi, Discrimination Against Women’s Right To
Temple Entry In India: A Critique (2 November 2017), http://www.countercurrents.org/gogoi260516.htm.

9 Women entry
into public places of worship (3 October 2017, 2:45 PM),
http://www.neoias.com/index.php/neoias-current-affairs/498-women-entry-into-public-places-of-worship.