This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Harshika Kapoor. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are All Menstruating Women An Object Of Enticement For Men?

More from Harshika Kapoor

Does celibacy mean not being in contact with women? Are menstruating women untouchables? Are all menstruating women an object of enticement for men? Does menstruation make women go on a crazy sex-spree? All of these questions seem to be hovering over the Sabarimala issue that has divided Kerala, the so-called most progressive state of India. Kerala is now facing a hurricane of violence, political diplomacy and war by BJP and Congress while the eye of the hurricane remains the sanctum sanctorum (Sabarimala Temple) which is protected by the Travancore priest family, policemen and even army men. There are multiple arguments that attack and support the recent Sabarimala SC ruling which is either being hailed as ‘historic’ and ‘progressive’ or as ‘interfering’ and ‘inconsiderate’. Many have pointed fingers at the Court of unduly interfering in religion, but the question is, was the interference truly undue?

The 1991 ruling of Kerala HC with Justices K Paripoornan and KB Marar barred women of age 10 until 50 years from entering the most famous and sacred temple of Lord Ayyappa. The former Devaswom (Travancore Devaswom Board) Commissioner Smt. S Chandrika had explicitly told the Supreme Court that the entry of women during poojas is consistent with the customs of the temple. There was clear dissonance between the former Devaswom Commissioner and the Tanthri who testified that women between the ages of 10 to 50 have never been allowed into the temple. But is the question about these inconsistencies? Is the question about whether women have been ‘allowed’ to enter the temple in the last 1,500 years or not? No, the question remains whether the arguments against the recent SC ruling are logical or not.

First and foremost, for the people who often proclaim, very authoritatively and self-righteously, that the Court has no role in the religious matters of the citizens need to re-evaluate their statement. There still exists a term called “social justice”, which in its very essence involves the society at large and justice (served by the judiciary). In a country like India where religion seeps into all aspects of an individual’s life, social justice cannot be served without the interaction of religion and jurisprudence. As Dr. Ambedkar himself said, “There is nothing which is not religion (in a country like India).”

Secondly, when did the prejudice against women based on a biological process become a good enough reason to exclude women from an activity? Oh wait, since forever. But, thanks to Ambedkar, according to Indian Constitution any exclusionary practice arising out of prejudice is unconstitutional and illegal. Menstruation is a process through which the human kind is thriving and thus, is not something to be used as a basis for gender-based discrimination. Justice DY Chandrachud defined the custom and the 1991 ruling as a type of ‘untouchability’ as it subjugated women, excluded them from the Ayyappa’s devotees’ community on the basis of a natural process over which they have no control. Even if it is argued that menstruating women entering Sabarimala Temple would be disrespectful to the vow of celibacy of Lord Ayyappa, I believe this argument is based on the premise that women can only be viewed as highly sexualised beings who can ‘entice’ the great Lord with just their presence. It’s a premise that I believe is patriarchal in its conception, disallowing women from being “real” devotees like men.

Aren’t we educated enough to see these irrational, decrepit biases? Justice Malhotra advised the court to not interfere in the ‘matters of deep religious faith and sentiments’, but drew the line at practices such as sati. But, how far is this practice away from sati? Sati forced women to burn themselves alive on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands. It reiterated and gave strength to the prejudices that women’s lives revolve around men, that their identity is derived from men and hence will always be lesser than them. It disarms, subjugates, and humiliates women by making them a derivative of another being, not whole in themselves. This is exactly what barring women’s entry to the temple does. It stops women from living their spiritual life; visiting the god they love and revere so deeply. It kills their spiritual being on the basis of the redundant notions of purity and pollution.

Thirdly, let’s come to the vow of celibacy of Lords Ayyappa. Celibacy is a choice a person makes consciously and with commitment. Question is, if Lord Ayyappa is so great, can’t his devotees trust him to not break his vow on the mere sight of a menstruating woman? I’m sure that a saint like him knows the difference between devotion and lust and has the mental capacities to fall into the ‘trap’ of lust if he comes across it. He is a God, after all. What’s really disrespectful is then how our lack of faith in his intelligence as a supreme being. At the very core of this “Oh My God, Lord Ayyappa is celibate, so let’s not let women go near him” argument lies the by-product of patriarchy, which is, baby-ing men to the point of rendering them incapable of controlling their instincts, no matter if the man in question is a GOD. This also puts the onus of responsibility on the woman who then has to be censored because of the man’s choices.

Even after stating all my arguments, I won’t say that women should or should not go to the temple. It’s their choice as devotees and as spiritual beings to visit or not. But, it was imperative to scrap the 1991 judgment because it snatched away this choice and snatched the agency of women to decide what they want to do as thinking beings. It goes against their fundamental and human rights to not have a choice in their very own religious matters. The 1991 judgment was unconstitutional in this sense.

You must be to comment.

More from Harshika Kapoor

Similar Posts

By Anonymous girl

By Vipashyana Dubey

By priyanka gulati

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below