Kerala government favours entry of all women into Sabarimala temple
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala informed the Supreme Court that women of all age groups will be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple. In July, the same government had filed a petition in the SC seeking the ban on entry of women. In 2007, the LDF had favoured women's entry, but the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) cited a contradictory stance.
Menstruation is a taboo in India, and traditionally, many Hindu temples prevent menstruating women from entering the temple premises. However, at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala, all women aged 10-50 are banned from entering. Some say women are banned as they are considered 'unclean' during menstruation, while scholars say that it is because Ayyappa, to whom the temple is dedicated, was celibate.
Kannada film actress Jayamala was charge-sheeted by the Kerala Police on 14th December, 2010, 4 years after she made a controversial claim that she had touched the idol of Lord Ayyappa at the famous Sabarimala temple.
The Indian Young Lawyers' Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the ban on entry of women in the Sabarimala temple. The petition argued that the ban, enforced by Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965, was unconstitutional insofar as it violated Articles 14 (equality before law), 25 and 26 (freedom of religion).
The Supreme Court entertained the petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers' Association in July, 2006. The bench, comprising of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice C.K. Thakker, issued a notice to the involved parties which includes the Kerala government, the chief priest of the Sabarimala Temple, the district magistrate, the Devaswom commissioner and the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the temple.
Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the President of Travancore Devaswom Board, stirred up controversy with his comments. Addressing reporters, Gopalakrishnan stated that women would only be allowed to enter Sabarimala Temple "when a machine is invented to scan if it is the 'right time' (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple". Gopalakrishnan also called for tighter security to prevent unclean women from entering.
Following Gopalakrishnan's controversial comment, college student Nikita Azad's open letter to Gopalakrishnan went viral, and women launched a campaign on Facebook decrying menstrual taboos and sexism by temple authorities. The campaign, dubbed 'Happy to Bleed', called on women "to hold placards/sanitary napkins/charts saying "Happy To Bleed" and posted the images on social media "to oppose the shame game played by patriarchal society".
Today, while hearing a PIL filed by Indian Young Lawyers' Association seeking entry for all women to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala, the Supreme Court declared that no governing body could prohibit women from entering the famous temple. The Supreme Court had issued notice on the case way back in 2006. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for February 8, 2016.
"Unless you have a constitutional right to prohibit women's entry, you cannot prevent them from worshipping at the shrine," Justice Dipak Misra told the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.
SC was informed that the lawyer who is leading the battle against the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala to allow entry to women, has been receiving warning phone calls, many of them from the US. As many as 500 calls were received; some threatened to blow up his house if he didn't stop. The court will decide upon Mr. Khan's security now.
The arguments that the tradition to forbid women in Sabarimala had been observed "before the Constitution came into being" failed to move the SC. SC said its decision on the entry of women would be based on constitutional principles which cannot be overridden by tradition. SC said it would examine if it was permissible constitutionally for any institution to pass orders forbidding women's entry.
The Supreme Court stated that the ban on the entry of women of a particular age group cannot be a part of a temple board's right to manage religious affairs. The statements were made while hearing a public interest litigation against the ban on entry of women in Kerala's Sabarimala temple. The court said said the ban was derogatory towards women and their dignity.