The Supreme Court on Friday put an end to the decades-long custom that banned women between 10 and 50 years in the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple in Kerala. In a landmark judgment, the Chief Justice ruled that gender cannot be used as a ground for preventing women from entering the temple.
The five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra, noted that Article 25 (the right to practice religion) is applicable to both men and women.
The judgement has been drawing mixed reactions among women. While few welcomed the judgement favouring gender equality and freedom to practice religion, many expressed their discontent.
Kannada actress Jayamala, who had stoked the controversy in 2006, and is now the Minister for Women and Child Welfare of Karnataka, spoke to TNM and expressed her satisfaction with the judgement.
“I am happy about the Sabarimala judgement. I have always believed in our courts and our judiciary system. I am thinking of going to the temple now that women are allowed. This is a big win for humanity,” she said.
In 2006, Jayamala had stirred up a controversy when she “confessed” that she had visited the temple at the age of 27 along with her husband, actor Prabhakar. At the time, women between the ages of 10 and 50 (in their menstruating years) were not allowed to enter the temple.
“I welcome the decision to allow admission to women of all ages at the Sabarimala temple by the Supreme Court. Hinduism is the inclusive religion. God is the same for everyone, it is wrong to discriminate with someone,” stated Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development on twitter.
मैं सुप्रीम कोर्ट द्वारा सबरीमाला मंदिर में सभी उम्र की महिलाओं को प्रवेश करने की अनुमति देने के फैसले का स्वागत करती हूँ। हिन्दू धर्म समावेशी धर्म है। ईश्वर सभी के लिए एक समान हैं, किसी के साथ भेदभाव करना गलत है। pic.twitter.com/mx8Ncp0j1v
— Maneka Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) September 28, 2018
However, some women, on the other hand, have expressed their dissatisfaction over the verdict.
Disagreeing with her peers, Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman in the five-judge Constitution bench, gave a dissenting judgement. She said that the court must not interfere with religious beliefs and that if a person has a belief in a deity, it must be respected.
Actor Navya Nair maintains a similar view. According to her, matters of belief should not be questioned.
Talking the media, she said, “It is a judicial decision and hence, as an individual, I have to respect it. However, personally, I will follow the old beliefs I grew up with. I first entered Sabarimala temple when I was 6 years old. I will visit the temple again only when the conditions are normal for me to enter. I don’t think matters of belief should be questioned. Besides, nothing will happen if one decides not to go to the temple.”
However, Navya says, she is content with the decision from the gender equality perspective. “In fact, I agree with all the other judgements that the Supreme Court recently announced,” she added.
Priti Gandhi, BJP’s national in-charge of social media, said she will uphold the age-old traditional practice of not entering the temple and will even advice her daughter to follow the same.
“There is a reason why women are not allowed inside the temple. Lord Ayyappa is worshipped in the form of a ‘brahmachari’ at Sabarimala. Forcing our preferences on a god, who is an eternal celibate, just to prove a point, is certainly not the way to go about,” Priti Gandhi added.
There is a reason why women are not allowed inside the temple. Lord Ayyappa is worshipped in the form of a 'brahmchari' at Sabarimala. Forcing our preferences on a god who is an eternal celibate just to prove a point is certainly not the way to go about. #SabarimalaVerdict
— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) September 28, 2018