The Supreme Court on September 28, in the year of 2018, ruled that the restricting entry of the women of menstruating age (between 10 and 50 years old) was unconstitutional. However, the recent issues of the restriction on the entry of the women in places of the worship like Sabarimala brought the focus on the debate ‘religious tradition versus gender equality’.

What was the issue?

  • Well, as per the traditions and also customs, women between 10 and 50 years of age were not allowed to enter into the Sabarimala Temple.
Constitutional Provisions As an excluding women from the access to the shrine is a clear violation of their fundamental rights to the equality (Article 14), non-discrimination (Article 15), and the freedom of religion (Article 25).   Top Quotes from the judgment
    • CJI Dipak Misra:
      • “Devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination”.
      • "Patriarchal rules have to change. Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practice religion”
    • Justice Nariman:
      • Well, "To exclude the women’s of the age group of between 10 to 50 from the temple is to deny dignity to the women. In fact, to treat the women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the Constitutions”
  Dissent judgment by Justice Indu Malhotra:
        • The issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain the secular atmosphere in our country.
        • However, it is not for the court to interfere in religious practices even if it appears discriminatory. The notions of rationality cannot be brought into the matters of the religion,
        • Moreover, an equality doctrine cannot override the fundamental right to worship under Article 25. In fact, the notions of rationality cannot be brought into the matters of religion,
  • Positives:- 1)Ban was against constitutional spirit as it violated the spirit of article 14 which guarantees 'Right to equality' and also against article 21 hence needs to be struck down. 2) The ban was the result of patriarchal norms against women which prevented them from worshiping their devotee from centuries and hence striking it down will send a positive message in society. 3) Exclusion from following one's religious freedom just because of 'biological features' was not just illogical but also discriminatory and was against article 15. 4) The supreme court clearly sends the message that no social practice is above the constitution.
  • Negatives:- 1) Article 25 guarantees freedom to profess and practice one's religion hence striking down ban may be against the spirit to profess one's religious practice accordingly. 2) Dissenting minority view stated that judiciary should not interfere in any religious practice even if illogical until it's about society's larger interest like Sati pratha. 3) It may trigger fear among masses who are following their centuries-old customs and norm under 'right to freedom'.

About Sabarimala Temple

  • Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples in our India, which is located in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. In fact, the temple is managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board.
  • Moreover, the lord Ayyappan is worshipped as a ‘Naishtika Bramhachari’ or a celibate for life. In fact, as per the notification by the Devaswom Board that manages the temple, the women who belong to the menstruating age are not permitted to enter the temple.
  • What are the legal and constitutional provisions for safeguarding women's right? Why recently there has been a demand by women in entering temples, mosques discuss in the context of recent Supreme Court judgment. (250 Words)
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