Sabarimala Temple authorities consider women of menstruating age “impure”. This was their reason to keep women from ages 10 to 50 from entering the temple premises. They further argued that women “disturb their perennially celibate” presiding deity Lord Ayyappa.
A huge uproar broke out in 2006 when Kannada actress Jayamala claimed to have entered the temple. A number of petitions and counter petitions were filed in various courts over the issue of women’s entry into the premises.
On September 28, 2018, in yet another landmark judgement, a five-judge constitution bench of Supreme Court comprising CJI Dipak Misra, Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, Rohinton Fali Nariman, and Indu Malhotra, ruled 4-1 in favour of allowing women into the Sabarimala temple.
Here are the significant takeaways from what the SC said in pronouncing its majority verdict:
- Woman is not lesser or inferior to man.
- Patriarchy of religion cannot be permitted to trump over faith.
- The dualistic approach against women degrades the status of women.
- Biological or physiological reasons cannot be accepted in freedom for faith.
- Religion is basically a way of life. However, certain practices create incongruities.
- Religious practices sometimes negate gender equality.
- Devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute separate religious denomination.
- The right to follow and propagate any religion has nothing to do with gender or physiological factors.
- The practice in Sabarimala Temple violates the rights of Hindu women. It has to be in harmony with the Constitution.
- The exclusionary practice given the backing of a legislation is not an integral part of religion.
- Dignity of individual is an unwavering nature of Fundamental Rights.
- Anything destructive of individuality is anachronistic of Constitutionality.
- The fact that women have a physiological feature of menstruating has nothing to do with their right to pray.
- Birthmarks and physiology are not the basis to deny constitutional entitlements.
- To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at the constitution itself.
However, Justice Indu Malhotra presented a dissenting judgement, wherein she said the following:
- Issues of deep religious sentiments should not ordinarily be interfered by the court.
- Court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.
- Notion of rationality should not be seen in matters of religion.