Denial of Women in Religious Shrines
One of the most famous and celebrated case of India is the case of Indian Young Lawyers Association Vs. State of Kerala, also known as Sabrimala Judgment which created feminist jurisprudence with new vigor and lubricated the wheels of social integration.
The background of the case was that there is a holy temple of Lord Ayyappa, also known as Sabrimala Temple, located in the district of Pathanamthitta in Kerala. Its believers and followers maintained asceticism, namely celibacy, which they consider as a source of abilities. Its devotees were required to maintain a strong vratham or vow for a period of forty-one days in ancient times. It follows the system of Brahmacharya made by Lord Ayyappa where women are excluded from entering and participating in the Vratham since time immemorial. Here, the women above the age of 10 and under the age of 50 were barred or do not have permission to access the shrine which is a custom prevailing.
As per the Section 3 of the Act of Rule 3(b) of Kerala Hindu Places of Worship (Authorization of Entry Act)(10), 1965 authorized this old ritual venues of public worship shall be available to all classes and the sections of Hindus, according to Religious Denomination’s rights. However, Rule 3(b) made an exemption for women who are not allowed to visit a place of public worship according to tradition and use.
In 2006, a Public Interest Litigation was filed with the Kerala High Court by the Young Lawyer’s Association seeking that the women should be allowed to enter the Sabrimala Temple and pay a visit to the shrine as it is their right to do so because no one can be denied entry just on the basis of physiological condition. It violates their fundamental and constitutional right. After all the ups and downs, the Supreme Court on 28 September, 2018, gave its historical Judgment. It said that now the women will be allowed to enter the Temple and there will be no discrimination just on the basis of the women’s physiological condition. In this regard, it is important to see that here the Supreme Court overturned a generations-old custom that prohibited women from entering the Sabrimala shrine in a majority decision. The judges were of the point of view that gender discrimination cannot be applied in the matters of devotion. Specifically excluding women of the particular age into entering the temple is not a religious requirement and that is why it will not be entertained. The Section 3(b) of the Kerala Temple Entry Act, which prohibits the women of ages between 10 and 50 from entering the temple, is a violation of the Hindu religion’s freedom of worship. If a physiological or the biological element of the individual fails to satisfy the credibility test, it cannot be accorded legitimacy. Exclusion such as menstruation is both unlawful and discriminatory because both men and women have the right to worship equally and the term ‘BAN’ refers to religious patriarchy and hence not tolerated.
Therefore, many discriminatory and horrific acts have now become permissible in the name of religion because it plays a very crucial part in our lives. This case is one such case which is brought by a women feminist to stop gender discrimination. But to actually implement everything in the society, there should be a moral force which should push people to stop discrimination in the society. Still, the Court’s decision was commendable.