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Significant judgment

 MPost |  2016-03-31 21:40:01.0  |  New Delhi

"Women can go where men can,” the Bombay High Court ruled on Wednesday. In a significant development, the court said that there is no law that prevents women from entering a place of worship. The court was hearing a plea that challenged the century-old tradition of disallowing the entry of women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Maharashtra's Shani Shingnapur temple. Ruling that women cannot be barred from entering the temple, the court said that women should have “equal access to places of worship”. The plea presented before the court by two women activists said that the prohibition established by the temple “encouraged gender disparity” and was “arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen”. The court directed the State government to present its reply on the matter in two days. On 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. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took immediate note of the situation and decided to meet the women protesters. On meeting them he said, “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”. Prior to the events in Maharashtra, 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 in the temple. “A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year,” he said. “There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ (when not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.” These remarks had led to a nationwide outrage earlier this year. In response, many women, particularly in urban India, participated in a campaign called “Happy to Bleed”. The total ban on women in temples is merely based on the decisions of an all-male establishment which is free to stipulate rules which discriminate against women on the basis of biological and physical conditions intrinsic to their gender. India as a country is used to rituals smacking of misogyny. There have 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. Suffice to say, the court’s ruling on the matter is most welcome.

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