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India’s Supreme Court Ends Ban on Menstruating Women in Hindu Temple

The Sabarimala temple in India, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism, is under fire for policies it set in place for women of menstruating age. The judiciary recently repealed the temple’s ban on menstruating women from entering.

The temple stated that it was fundamental in their beliefs to refuse women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering and worshipping. Some Hindu leaders have even suggested that menstruating women are “impure.”

These policies did not fare well in the eyes of India’s Supreme Court.

The court “ruled that religious freedoms cannot be invoked as a ‘cover’ for sexist policies, ordering a historic temple to lift its ban on women ‘of menstruating age’.”

While religious authorities defended that banning women from the temple was critical to their beliefs, Chief Justice Dipak Misra argued otherwise.

“Religion cannot be the cover to deny women the right to worship. To treat women as children of a lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality,” Misra stated.

This is not the first instance of discrimination Hindu women in India have faced recently. The operators of another temple in Rajasthan declared that the Hindu god, Kartikeya, curses women who choose to enter the temple to worship.

Many temples around the country have rules regarding admission for women, with some not allowing women to enter at all. However, this has not stood in the way of women attempting to change the status quo.

A group of women in India calling themselves the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade has banded together to address this issue. At one point, a few members tried to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, which has had a “men-only” tradition for centuries.

When the group was stopped from entering, they told temple authorities that they would return the next day, with hundreds of supporters, unless their men-only policy was lifted.

While India’s Supreme Court has already made its decision, not all political figures are happy with the choice. Justice Indu Malhotra stated, “Religious practices cannot solely be tested on the basis of the right to equality. It is up to the worshippers, not the court, to decide what is the religion’s essential practice.”

Even women’s rights activists in the country are not sure that the Supreme Court’s decision will have a positive effect on Hindu temples throughout the country.

Chhavi Methi, who was initially very happy about the decision said, “I am doubtful the temple authorities would take it in the right spirit. Women would accept it, but its implementation might pose a problem.”

The Indian Supreme Court’s decision to terminate this ban on menstruating women is groundbreaking when considering the history of these temples.

While women are hopeful about the progress that has been made, what will truly put the court’s decision to the test is the way in which worshippers and temple authorities will include women in their places of worship.


 Featured Image by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

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