Saturday, January 12, 2019

Women in India Enter Temple Closed Off to Women for Centuries

Sabarimala Shrine Temple
photo attribution:
AnjanaMenon at Malayalam Wikipedia

Author: Sheri Smith

New Delhi in the southern state of Kerala, India.

On Jan. 2, 2019, two Hindu women were escorted into the Sabarimala Shrine Temple, a temple that had been closed to women for centuries. The country’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on women of menstruating age,  from entering the temple. It was ruled to be discriminatory against women.

Since the ruling, extensive and consistent riots have been held outside the temple in an attempt to keep women from entering.

Bindu Ammini, 40, a law lecturer at a university and Kanaka Durga, 39, a civil servant, were determined to enter the once banned temple.

The women were escorted by police to the temple where they entered early in the morning on Wednesday, January 2nd. Afterwards, the two women went into hiding, fearing retribution.
Protests have been fierce causing police to use tear gas and water cannons to calm the riots.

The temple is thought to be over 800 years old. It is believed the spirit of the Lord Ayyappa, the Hindu god of growth, dwells there. Ayyappa is considered celibate and allowing women of menstruating age into the temple would be disrespectful and an abomination.

The local government is run by the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the temple is run by the Hindu Nationalist Party. 

Earlier this week approximately 5 million female protesters participated in a peaceful protest, forming a human chain extending about 385 miles. This was done in support of these two women and others who showed great courage in going to the temple that was once banned.

A chain of women stretching 385 miles. Selah. 

Contemplate that for a minute. 

This human chain represented so much more than two women entering one temple. The rights of women around the world were represented in that chain.

Back to rights. What about the rights of men in India?

While women pursue the right to enter any place of worship to pray, I must ask myself, will men be allowed into the at least eight temples where they are restricted?

Will the supreme court rule all temples must be opened to both genders?

As a religion and society, is equality and equal opportunity always required? Is segregation permitable in certain circumstances and what would those circumstances be?

These questions are not meant to disagree with the rights of women to worship freely at any temple.  To have a law that women of child bearing age cannot enter a specific temple is beyond comprehension. Although to some of those who follow the Hindu religion and the laws and customs of their gods, this law is completely acceptable.

Much of what we see isn’t about equality but about the chains of oppression being lifted from the entire female population. While American women have embraced the me too movement, the Hindu women have embraced the freedom of religion movement.

Is it morally, ethically, and legally wrong to permit men to worship at a temple without women? Yet, in this case it isn’t all women, just women of child bearing age?

Is it morally, ethically, and legally wrong to permit women to worship at a temple without men?
Is society required to respect the religious beliefs of a people group when those beliefs are contrary to other’s religious beliefs?

Women standing up to be heard, respected, given opportunity, and value is always right.

The oppression of women is denied by many a person, who have never experienced it, yet it is alive to those who have to live it.

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Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time. Have a great day! Sheri