Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality

Larry Hoffman
January 2, 2019

A centuries-old ban has been breached by two women who entered an ancient Hindu temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala despite strong protests by right-wing conservative groups. This is the first time when women under 50 have entered the Sabarimala Temple.

The two women from Kerala, Bindu and Kanakadurga, who are in their 40s, entered the temple premises and offered prayers at around 3:45 am on Wednesday, reports said.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the entry of the women into the shrine "hurt" the sentiments of devotees and it shows the headstrong attitude of the chief minister to take women of the traditionally "barred" age group to the temple.

The BJP condemned the Supreme Court verdict allowing women to enter the Sabarimala shrine, saying it attacked religious values. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.

Media reports said the women entered the hilltop temple just before dawn with police security. If women have failed to enter Sabarimala till today then RSS, BJP and Congress are responsible for it.

Bindu said that they were given all support and assurance for the darshan by the police, and they had a smooth and hassle-free darshan on early hours of Wednesday.

The fight over women's right to enter the temple also comes in the lead-up to India's general election in April and May.

Repeated efforts by women to enter the shrine after the ruling have been rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them out. The women, identified as Bindu and Kanaka Durga, had tried to enter the shrine last month but had been stopped by protestors.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai said that the state government has conspired to facilitate the entry of the two women to Sabarimala.

India's top court overturned the ban in September, but protesters have since attacked female visitors.

Protests with sporadic violence were also reported in several other towns across the state, local media said. Some Hindu communities regard menstruating women as unclean. Over 700 women had registered their names with the police seeking protection during their trek to the temple when the temple re-opened.

Of course, I support the move to allow women of all ages into the temple.

These two women have protected India's constitutional rights and smashed the walls of patriarchy.

Women in India have stood in solidarity to form a 620km "human chain" calling for equal access to the Sabarimala shrine.

Many Hindu groups as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fiercely oppose the court ruling.

The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on 22 January.

Nair Service Society's General Secretary Sukumaran Nair thanked the temple priests for closing the temple for "purification rituals".

The temple's deity Lord Ayyappa is regarded as a bachelor who has taken an oat of celibacy.

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