Women Undergo Social Conditioning From Birth: Sabarimala Case

Sabarimala Case

On the third day of Supreme Court hearing of the Sabarimala temple case, the constitutional bench discussed why it is unconstitutional to ban women’s entry into the temple. Travancore Devaswom Board’s advocate Abhishek Singhvi presented arguments that focussed towards establishing the temple as a denominational temple working by the ethics of Article 26 of the Indian constitution and that women can’t enter the temple only because of physiological reasons and not gender discrimination.

The Article 26 gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law.

“The object is not to exclude women but physiological reasons exclude them. Anybody with same physiological reasons will be excluded,” said Singhvi in the court.

Justice Rohinton Nariman replied to Singhvi saying, “The question is whether we can apply Constitutional morality test as stated by Amicus Ramachandran. If yes, then it straight away blocks your case.”

Singhvi tried to follow up his argument by saying that many other religions also bar women’s entry into religious places including Islam where women can’t enter Mosques. To this, CJI Dipak Misra asked him what is it that makes it “essential” for temples to ban women’s entry. Nariman simply put why women can’t enter the temple is because they cannot observe 41 days of Vratam because they menstruate. “None of the affidavits say that temple has prohibited women’s entry because they are impure when they menstruate,” he added.

Singhvi then went into establishing his argument that Lord Ayyappa temple is, in fact, a denominational temple under Article 26. He cited the example of the Attukal temple in Kerala which does not allow women during the time of Pongala.

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He said that these temples are not anti-women because their “originating thought-process is not gender at all”. But Justice Nariman retorted saying, “Mr Singhvi, the moment they say they feel excluded and it violates A. 14, 15 and 25, then the burden is on you to show is that the practice is not unconstitutional because it is clear that you are excluding them.”

Right from the day they take birth women have to go through social conditioning.  – Justice DY Chandrachud

He added saying that older religions have more such practices while Sikhism and Bahaism are fairly new so don’t have such rituals.

“Right from the day they take birth women have to go through social conditioning – ‘this is what you should follow, this is your role,” said DY Chandrachud.

Justice Nariman followed by saying, “The only reason is paternalistic notion that during 41 days women cannot keep the Vratam, no other temple prohibits women.”

Singhvi still backed the Vratam argument by saying that, “It happens because of the notions attached to Vratam,” but Justice Chandrachud brought out the sexist tone in his statement and said, “It happens due to the male-dominated society and the notion is only men can perform Vratam but a female, a chattel of man, cannot perform 41-day Vratam,” the Bar & Bench reported.

Singhvi then tried to normalize male chauvinism, but Chandrachud strictly responded saying, “We will obliterate them wherever we can.”

Now the hearing will continue on 25 July.

Picture credit- The Hindu

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