In the latest of a string of recent wins for women’s rights, India’s Supreme Court on Friday overturned a famous Hindu temple’s ban on the admission of menstruating females, reports the Washington Post.
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“Historically, women have been treated with inequality,” said the chief justice, Dipak Misra, as he delivered the verdict to lift the Ayyappan temple’s restrictions on women’s entry. “Society has to undergo a perception shift.”
The shrine, which sits on a mountain “surrounded by a densely forested tiger reserve and is visited by 50 million pilgrims every year,” according to the report, has long been closed to menstruating women.
In India, menstruation has long been associated with impurity and stigma, with women prohibited from communal cooking and eating places on days that they are menstruating and as well as entering temples.
But now, as of the court’s ruling, the doors to the shrine must allow all to enter.
“In the last two or three years, we are again seeing the emergence of a liberal court,” said Indira Jaising, a lawyer who represented women campaigning to lift restrictions on entry into the Ayyappan temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala, in an interview with the Post.
This is due, in part, to the fact that the court takes on issues avoided by the political government, noted Reuters.
Justice Dipak Misra said in the judgment: “Patriarchy in religion cannot be permitted to trump over element of pure devotion borne out of faith and the freedom to practise and profess one’s religion.”
Open for just 127 days of the year, the shrine is a sacred destination for followers, and there was immediate pushback to the ruling from its management.
“We will go for a review petition after getting support from other religious heads,” said A. Padmakumar, president of Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the hilltop temple, about 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) above sea level, in an interview with Reuters.