Sabarimala Temple: India's Supreme Court lifts ban on women entering shrine

Supreme Court opens Sabarimala Temple gates to women of all ages

The judge also holds that notions of "purity and pollution", which stigmatize individuals, have no place in a constitutional order. On the one hand, women are worshipped as goddesses, but there are restrictions on the other hand.

"No physiological and biological factor can be given legitimacy if it does not pass the test of conditionality", Justice Dipak Misra said in the judgment. "Biological or physiological reasons can not be accepted in freedom for faith", the Chief Justice said.

The CHI further observed that exclusion of women of a certain age into the temple is not an essential part of religion. "These are new and evolving forms of untouchability in the realm of patriarchy", she said, referring to an outlawed practice of untouchability under India's ancient caste system.

An estimated one million Hindu pilgrims travel to the Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala annually. Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud concurred.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the Congress government opposed women entering the temple since they did not want to oppose the rules and traditions of any place of worship. Moreover a woman has an equal right to worship, he also added. "We will ensure smooth pilgrimage to women", said state temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran. Menstrual cycles have been treated as a taboo by attaching a stigma to it. Years of institutionalisation of biases against menstruating women have gone on to deny them the constitutionally guaranteed right to equality.

But in recent years, they have faced an unprecedented challenge from women's groups.

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The three-judge bench had framed five "significant" questions to be considered by the higher bench, including whether the practice of banning women from entering the Sabarimala temple violated their fundamental rights and amounted to discrimination.

The petition assailing the above Rule and seeking the lifting of the ban on entry of women was filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association in Supreme Court more than a decade ago - in 2006. "Constitutional morality in a secular polity would comprehend the freedom of every individual, group, sect, or denomination to practice their religion in accordance with their beliefs, and practises".

He said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate denomination.

The apex court was hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the ban on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. "The ban says presence of women deviates from celibacy". The 4-1 majority judgment found the age-old custom of barring menstruating women an infringement on Hindu women's right to pray. It accepts "public interest litigations" - an idiosyncratic legal tool that gives all Indians access to the country's top court.

India's top court on Friday revoked a ban on women entering a famous Hindu temple following a decades-long legal battle, ruling that patriarchy can not be allowed to trump faith.

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