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Holy Equality

India has been home to various rituals, where a man exercises greater power over woman. One such site of dominance has been over the rights of a woman to pray at Hindu temples. History says that the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar has had a tradition for almost a century where women have no access to the temple. On this Republic Day when most of the country was celebrating its 67th anniversary, a group of 400 women, who are part of the Bhumata Ranragini brigade, marched to the temple protesting against this inequality. The women, who were part of this protest, demanded the participation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. In other words, they sought his intervention in the matter through police proceedings. The police during the protest had made a human wall protecting the temple against the protesters. The protesters threatened to enter the temple using a helicopter if they were denied entry otherwise.

This protest was followed after the new board president of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala announced that he would introduce machines outside the temple which would check if a woman is menstruating before they set foot into the temple. He further stated to media that, “A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the “right time” (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.” These remarks earlier this month, lead to a nationwide outrage where most women participated in a campaign called, “Happy to Bleed”. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took immediate note of the situation and decided to meet the women protesters. On meeting them he said that, “A change in yesterday’s traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture.” However, he held back from directly intervening in the issue, instead asking the “temple authorities” to “resolve the issue through dialogue”.

India as a country is used to rituals suggestive of misogyny. There has been a series of rituals which victimised women—Sati, being the biggest example. The purity of women till date remains in question as most still believe that menstruation is when a woman is absolutely impure.
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