Millennium Post

How menstruation linked to purity: SC asks Sabarimala mgmt

The Sabarimala temple management on Monday told the Supreme Court that the ban on the entry of women aged 10-50 years was because they cannot maintain “purity” for 41 days on account of menstruation, prompting the judges to ask how periods could be linked to purity.

Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine in Kerala, also claimed that the ban was not discriminatory and based on “reasonable classification”.

“There is no gender discrimination. There is a reasonable classification by which a certain class of women are excluded,” senior advocate KK Venugopal, representing the Devaswom Board, told a three-judge Bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra.

“What is the fulcrum of this classification,” the Bench asked, referring to the bar on the entry of women of a particular age group. 

Venugopal said that girls and women in the age group are excluded as they cannot maintain purity for a period of 41 days due to the mensuration.

“Do you to mean to say that mensuration is associated with the purity of women? You are making a distinction based on purity...Now, the question is whether the Constitutional principles allow this?” the Bench, also comprising Justices V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph, said.

At the outset, Venugopal said that women and men both are allowed in the temple, and hence, there is no case of gender discrimination and women within a particular age group are not allowed due to the centuries-old custom.

There are as many as eight Lord Ayappa temples in Delhi and the National Capital Region and women are allowed inside, he said, adding that the Sabarimala temple is different.

Women are allowed inside Sabarimala too, but they cannot climb the 18 sacred steps on the hill unless they maintain 41 days of purity, he said, adding that the High Court verdict, favouring the practice, is a judgment “in rem” (continuity) and the Apex Court should not re-examine it by entertaining a PIL.

The arguments remained inconclusive and would resume on May 2. The court is hearing a PIL, filed by the Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple, located on a hilltop in the Western Ghats of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta District. 
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