Can menstruation be a factor in temple entry, asks Supreme Court

Questioning taboos entrenched in the Indian psyche from time immemorial, the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to answer whether a physiological phenomenon like menstruation can be a guiding factor for denying women of a certain age the right to enter and worship in a temple.

Hearing the constitutionality of the entry ban on women between ages of 10 and 55 at the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, V. Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph was hearing senior advocate Indira Jaising representing a group of students who are part of the ‘Happy to Bleed’ campaign.

Ms. Jaising said gender stereotyping in Indian temples violates the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.

She asked the court how the healthy biological process of menstruation is used in the name of religion to discriminate against women.

Bench's poser

At one point, Justice Kurian asked whether the “individual morality” of the Sabarimala deity to remain a celibate should be subject to the parameters of constitutional morality.

“The deity does not want his celibacy to be disturbed. That is his individual morality. Nobody has conferred Him with the status of a celibate. It is within him ... In such a case, should such an individual morality be made subject to constitutional scheme of matters,” Justice Kurian asked.

Justice Kurian wondered aloud whether the concept of ‘Nityabrahmachari’ (of the Sabarimala deity) and the tradition of no entry to women aged between 10 and 55 have really anything to do with menstruation. Ms. Jaising insisted that it had, saying the traditional argument is that women of that age will “disturb” the deity’s celibacy. “The onus of causing disturbance is on women. If you are true celibate, why blame women for disturbing you? This is a classical blaming-the-victim game,” she contended.

The students want the apex court to decide whether society should continue to bear with “menstrual discrimination.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:05:47 AM |

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