Gender bias in temples: May god give them sense

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah

The list is endless. The number of restrictions imposed on women -- both officially and unofficially-in our country is countless.

It does not surprise us anymore that women in India can't venture out after dark.

Sabrimala temple

Reason: "the roads get dangerous at night", but men can move freely. It's not just the roads, even some temples are out of bounds for women.

Or is it the women whose presence has become a threat to the existence of some religious heads who believe in keeping them away to stay relevant in society.

No temple for women?

Two developments pertaining to women's entry into Hindus temples hogged the limelight on Monday (January 11).

The Supreme Court ruled that no temple can bar the entry of women devotees -- except on the basis of religion.

The apex court made the observation while hearing a petition filed by the Indian Young Lawyers' Association challenging Kerala's Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple's custom of prohibiting the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 years.

Meanwhile, in Shingnapur village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Anita Shetye, a housewife, was unanimously appointed the first ever woman chairperson of the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust.

The move is hailed historic, as a woman is going to head the temple where female devotees are not allowed inside.

However, the age-old tradition of not allowing women devotees to worship at the temple dedicated to Lord Shani - the personification of planet Saturn - will continue, temple trustee Prafull N. Surpuriya said.

Court's ruling creates fissure

The Supreme Court's ruling on Sabarimala issue was both welcomed and opposed by the disciples. CPI-M legislator G Sudhakaran said women should be allowed entry into the Sabarimala temple.

"Where men can enter, women also should and can enter," Sudhakaran said.

But Kantereru Rajiveru, the Sabarimala temple thantri (Vedic head priest), supported the bar on women's entry into the temple.

"A decision on what should be told to the court has to be taken only after discussions with all concerned as faith is of prime importance," he said.

#HappyToBleed: Women protest against religious dogmas

Last year, Sabarimala temple was in news after its chief said he would allow women to enter the shrine only after a machine was invented to detect if they were "pure".

For the temple chief Prayar Gopalakrishnan, a pure woman is one who is not menstruating. His comment trigged an online campaign, #HappyToBleed, which went viral on the social media.

Hundreds of women joined the campaign as they posed for photographs holding placards with the slogan "Happy to Bleed".

These photographs were shared and liked on the social media. Several men also supported the campaign.

Nikita Azad, a 20-year-old woman from Patiala, started the campaign as she was annoyed by the sexist remarks of the chief priest.

Taking a cue from Nikita, women across the country should plan a coup of sorts to freely enter and pray at temples. And, yes, then perhaps they can set their sight on the roads as well that "turns into a monster after dark".

May be there's still some light at the end of the dark alley.

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