Matter of equality, again!
Gender discrimination has been society's vice. From earlier times, accepted detrimental norms have eclipsed equality while urging masses to follow suit. It is the radical argument in infancy that aspires to change the status quo, dismantling bias on social construct such as gender. Gender discrimination in Indian society has been a hypocritical affair. While deeply rooted in the Indian psyche, contemporary times have ushered liberal thoughts to manifest ensuing unprecedented alterations to society. One such instant is exemplified in Sabarimala. And, the other, seeping out from the crack made by Sabarimala on the historic glass of tradition, is the petition filed challenging a ban on women's entry in mosques across India. The petition filed by a couple reached the apex court pleading it to declare the present practice of prohibiting entry of women into mosques as illegal and unconstitutional for being violative of their Fundamental Rights. The petition follows the couple's multiple pleas refused by heads of mosques. The couple feels empowered and motivated in their plea purely because the custodian of law before which they have brought their plea, granted entry to women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine last September in a historic judgement breaking centuries of tradition. It was the apex court's determined verdict in Sabarimala that has the potential to pave way for the entry of women in mosques. After initial hesitation, the Supreme Court announced that it would examine the plea and issued notices to Centre, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and National Commission for Women seeking their responses over the matter. The plea by the couple can be considered as the first step in what may turn out to be another great verdict in securing equality that this country boasts. Mention of Article 14 was dubbed by the Supreme Court as inadequate in the matter since it could not be invoked against temples, mosques, churches, etc., non-state entities. But petitioners' counsel had a befitting response to this how temples, mosques are amenable to the writ jurisdictions of courts as they are maintained with public money. While the court will carry the matter to a productive direction, one of the arguments raised in countless debates could be the tradition. Since it has been so since time immemorial so it is wise to let it be so. Critical statements how the court should not interfere in matters of religion and religious faith, which also surfaced during Sabarimala, will be pronounced as strive for equality in this plea gathers momentum. While the National Women Commission might not object against such a cause, the other two notices might not yield fruitful replies. Since the plea indirectly impacts masses, such proceedings will obviously be closely watched and followed. More so, it may also be involved in political discourses like in case of Triple Talaq and Sabarimala. Ramifications of such pleas is also a case in point. Despite SC's ruling, Sabarimala shrine witnessed abject protests and violence. A similar imbroglio would be uncalled for but at the same time necessary mayhem. Breaking traditions to secure the individual rights belonging to every citizen is not an easy task. But if the matter is about rights conferred by the Constitution then it is a mandatory task as well. It is important to note in this context that in Mecca – the holy city – no such gender discrimination to offer worship exists. Also, women were allowed to enter mosques even during the Prophet's time. Such inputs strengthen the petitioners' plea and yield an important conclusion of how women's entry in mosques (or a ban on it) is a social issue rather than a religious one.
Like Sabarimala and Haji Ali Dargah, this issue comes in conflict with public sentiment. And, in a democracy where the public is key, at least in spirit, it is important to consider wide perceptions and stretch the scrutiny of contentious matters to an extent where everything has been accounted for before producing a verdict that may change the existing state of affairs. Only the Supreme Court can adhere to such a precarious responsibility. Such issues are predominantly considered in the ambit of religion rather than the society which damages the prospects of mass understanding right from the outset. It is to this extent that bigots and extremists advocate their wisdom which strictly rests on tradition and completely ignoring law or logic.