The Supreme Court of India on Monday questioned the ban on women's entry at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. On Tuesday, it stayed the central government's January 7 order allowing the bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu called Jallikattu.
SC takes on patriarchal traditions
The apex court's taking on two established patriarchal traditions in as many number of days is a welcome move.
In case of the Sabarimala ban, a three-judge bench pulled up the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the temple of Lord Ayappa on the ban, asking on what ground was it stopping the women from entering the temple. It said the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender while the petitioners said the ban violated Article 14 (equality before law), 25 and 26 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution and sought the rule to be scrapped.
In case of Jallikattu, the court gave an interim order on a bunch of petitions filed by various animal rights groups against the Centre's notification allowing Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock-cart races elsewhere, which many viewed as a move to woo the rural constituencies of the southern state which is due to go the election in a few months' time.
The court asked the necessity of a "non-essential" activity like bull-racing and sought response from a number of states, including Karnataka where Kambala is held, besides the Centre within four weeks.
Both the instances show that the apex court has finally decided to take up the responsibility of bridging the gap between discriminatory/torturous traditions and preservation of rights of both animals and human beings, something that this country's age-old patriarchal customs have overlooked.
Disallowing women amounts to humiliating human beings
Disallowing women in a temple (it was claimed that girls attaining puberty were not allowed to enter the temple and only those who have passed menopause were allowed, something which makes it issue even more distasteful) just not violates their constitutional rights but also humiliates them as human identities. Such traditions need to stopped if India really regards itself as an emerging power in the 21st century world.
Worshipping goddesses in temples and putting a curb on women to enter religious institutions amount to a hypocrisy that no modern nation can afford to tolerate.
Animals can't be made to suffer in a modern nation
Similarly, using bulls in torturous sports as was seen in the medieval days is a practice that doesn't suit a 21st century nation. Jallikattu is a cruel practice in which the hapless animals' bodies and spirits are smashed amid a celebrations, something which makes it an extremely sadistic affair. Issuing guidelines for the game doesn't make any sense for they are hardly followed on the ground, something which had forced the Supreme Court to ban it in 2014.
It is unfortunate that all political parties in Tamil Nadu decided to defend the inhuman practice so that they did not alienate the rural vote banks of Tamil Nadu just ahead of the election. The BJP also tried to make use of the opportunity as the NDA government at the Centre lifted the ban.
Tradition can't be defended if it's inhuman
Arguments that these above-mentioned traditions have been continuing over centuries stand no ground as a defence. We had barbaric practices like Sati in the past in the name of tradition. Do we bring them back as part of our culture today? Certainly not. So then, why encourage ban on women in temples or lifting the ban on cruel sports involving animals?
Our traditions mostly adhere to blind faith in patriarchy. It is high time that we start dismantling those evil structures of patriarchy that obstruct our progress. The Supreme Court has made a move which needs to be backed from all quarters, including the opportunist political ones.