Sabarimala Verdict: Once again, Supreme Court bats for women's equality

The five-judge bench delivered four judgements.

Stating that "law and society are tasked with the task to act as levelers", CJI Misra said "dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women". "Patriarchy in religion can not be allowed to trump right to pray and practice religion". The 27-year-old case which depended on the judgment whether to allow women between 10 to 50 years of age into the temple, has turned out to be a positive verdict for the women devotees. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at Constitutional morality. The Court in 4:1 Majority went on to say that the Shrine should welcome Women of all ages. She claimed that it is upto the worshippers to decide the essential practice of the religion and not the court.

Religion is a way to link life with divinity, said CJI Misra. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa are Hindus, don't constitute a separate religious denomination.

"We are going for a review petition by the first week of October. It is our Constitutional right", he told the press after the verdict.

While most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it is one of a few temples that does not allow women in the broad age group to enter at all.

Justice DV Chandrachud had also highlighted that a woman can not be stopped entry simply due to their gender.

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Why should any celibate man (or any man) fear a menstruating women?

Two years ago, a Mumbai court ruled that it was the fundamental right of women to enter any place of worship that allows men access, and that the state should protect this right. He observed that irrespective of the status of a woman, menstruation has been equated with impurity, and the idea of impurity is then used to justify their exclusion from key social activities.

The head priest of Sabarimala Temple, Kandararu Rajeevarau said that he was disappointed but accepted the Supreme Court verdict on women entry. Menstrual cycles have been treated as a taboo by attaching a stigma to it. Years of institutionalisation of biases against menstruating women have gone on to deny them the constitutionally guaranteed right to equality.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved its judgement on August 1 after hearing the matter for eight days. Justice Malhotra said right to equality conflicts with right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

Women's rights lawyer Flavia Agnes said "spaces have to be created for judicial intervention" but warned that determining what is the core or essential practices of religions was riddled with complexities. Temple is not a private property, it is a public property.

The party was conspicuously silent on Friday after the court struck down the ban: a reticence which contrasted starkly with the enthusiastic welcome it accorded to the other pronouncements of the apex court namely the verdict of rejecting SIT probe in the case of the 5 activists with alleged Maoist links and the Ayodhya verdict.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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