Two women have defied expectations and tradition in hopes of pushing toward gender equality in India. The pair, escorted by plainly-clothed police officers, entered the Sabarimala Temple which has previously banned women of childbearing age.
After word spread that the women, whose names have been given as Bindu and Kanakadurga, entered the temple, a Hindu priest shut the building down in order to perform “purification rituals.” Such rituals are typically done only following instances that include the spilling of blood or children urinating.
While the barring of women from these temples was declared unconstitutional by India’s Supreme Court, many citizens did not agree with the ruling due to its violation of tradition. In protest, they blocked the entrance of the Sabarimala Temple so that women could not come inside.
Due to the bravery of these two women, protests have broken out across the country to highlight the need for gender equality. With India being named the most dangerous country in the world for women, a fight for change is needed now more than ever.
Those who participated in the protest discussed important topics like increasing quotes for women in government positions and improving conditions for Dalits (low-caste Indian citizens).
The turnout for the protest was so overwhelming that some areas had rows several people deep.
Sajitha Manaakat Veettil, a teacher who joined in the protest, stated, “It was not just a wall. It was a great wall.”
Some of the protesters’ chants included: “We are taking the pledge that we will uphold renaissance values! We will stand for equality for women! We will fight for secularism!”
The #MeToo movement had found its way to India prior to these protests. Because of this, women across the country took to social media to share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. Some stories involved public figures working in journalism, entertainment, and even the government.
Subhashini Ali, a Communist Party member in India, criticized what she described as “evil forces” for policing the choices of women on the grounds of tradition and casteism.
At an onstage event, Ali stated, “We can speak for ourselves. We want our rights, our equality, and we have to move forward.”
Members of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party have voiced their displeasure with women’s entrance into the Sabarimala Temple and the protests that have followed, describing the initial entry into the temple as a “black day.”
Bhakti Pasrija Sethi, a lawyer in New Delhi, sees these events as a positive step for women and gender equality.
“This is a harbinger of further good things,” she stated.
In a country that has earned a poor reputation in regards to the treatment of women, it is inspiring to see so many women and men join together in hopes of achieving gender equality. Due to the efforts of millions across India, the message has been made clear to governing officials: women deserve better.
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