The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision today, permitted entry of women to the famous Sabarimala temple located in Kerala. The five-member bench, headed by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices R F Nariman, D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and A M Khanwilkar gave the 4:1 verdict with only Malhotra dissenting.

Misra in the judgment said: “The dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women.”

He added, “Woman is not lesser or inferior to man. Patriarchy of religion cannot be permitted to trump over faith.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Now, women of all ages — irrespective of menstruating age — can enter the Sabarimala shrine.
  • The court said that a woman is not lesser or inferior to man.
  • Excluding menstruating women is not an essential part of religion, CJI Dipak Misra said.
  • To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the Constitution itself, said Justice Chandrachud.

While he upheld Article 25 in the case of Sabarimala, he said that it does not have anything to do with gender or physiological factor. Article 25 allows freedom of religion to Indian as well as non-Indian citizens. It gives freedom of conscience and bestows freedom to profess, practise and propagate one’s religion.

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The CJI also said excluding menstruating women is not an essential part of religion. Birthmarks and physiology are not the basis to deny constitutional entitlements. To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the Constitution itself, added Justice Chandrachud.

Justice Malhotra, in her dissenting argument, said, “Court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”

“Excluding menstruating women is not an essential part of religion” – CJI Dipak Misra

For decades, women could not go inside the inner sanctum of the Sabarimala temple because of the clause by Travancore Devaswom Board which disallowed menstruating women from entering. Their contention was that Lord Ayyappa is celibate and so no women should go inside the temple while they are fertile. Going by this clause, last year, the board chief also said that they will only allow women to enter the temple if they can install a machine which detects women who are menstruating.

This statement from the board chief called for sharp reactions from across the board, especially from women’s groups who found it extremely regressive and denigrating.

Picture credit- IB Times

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