Sabarimala Women of All Ages Allowed
General studies 1:
- Role of women and women’s organization, women related issues, Social empowerment
General studies 2:
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
In News: The Supreme Court paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Shabrimala in Kerala, reversing the Kerala shrine’s tradition of barring girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years.
”Right to pray” in the temple for women between 10 and 50 years of age won over the ‘right to wait’ campaign as the Supreme Court condemned the prohibition as “hegemonic patriarchy”. Patriarchy cannot trump freedom to practice religion
Logic behind the ban:
The restriction imposed on entry of women in Sabarimala is because of the nature of the deity worshipped there as a ‘naishtika brahmachari’ (celibate). Some argue that it is not because of any discriminatory attitude towards women based on biological factors such as menstruation.
But many are of the opinion that it is due to the age-old practice and belief that the presence of women deviated men from celibacy. This places the burden of a men’s celibacy on women thus, stigmatising women and stereotyping them. Individual dignity of women could not be at the mercy of a mob. Morality was not ephemeral. It transcended biological and physiological barriers.
SC underlines the Constitution’s transformative power (Points can be used in mains answer and essay)
The Constitution protects religious freedom in two ways –
- It protects an individual’s right to profess, practise and propagate a religion
- Assures similar protection to every religious denomination to manage its own affairs.
Observations made by the Judges:
The argument that the practice is justified because women of menstruating age would not be able to observe the 41-day period of abstinence before making a pilgrimage failed to impress the judges. To Chief Justice Dipak Misra, any rule based on segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is indefensible and unconstitutional. Devotion cannot be subjected to the stereotypes of gender. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said stigma built around traditional notions of impurity has no place in the constitutional order, and exclusion based on the notion of impurity is a form of untouchability.
Freedom of religion
Generally, the right to freedom of religion of both individuals and groups is recognised as an intrinsic facet of a liberal democracy. The Constitution memorialises these guarantees in Articles 25 and 26. The former recognises a right to freedom of conscience and a right to freely profess, practise, and propagate religion, subject to common community exceptions of public order, morality, and health, and also, crucially, to the guarantee of other fundamental rights.
Article 25(2)(b) creates a further exception to the right. It accords to the state a power to make legislation, in the interests of social welfare and reform, throwing open Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
Article 26, on the other hand, which is also subject to limitations imposed on grounds of public order, morality, and health, accords to every religious denomination the right, among other things, to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes and to manage their own affairs in matters of religion.
Connecting the Dots:
- The decision reaffirms the Constitution’s transformative character and derives strength from the centrality it accords to fundamental rights. Discuss.