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Should Allow All Women In Sabarimala Temple, Kerala govt tells SC

“Only girls below the age of 10 and ladies above the age of 50 are permitted to climb up the hills to Sabarimala is the practice that has been followed, in respect of Sabarimala pilgrimage,” the rules state.

In a change of stance from the state government, Kerala has informed the Supreme Court on Monday that it favours entry of women of all ages into the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala temple. As a pursuit of this statement, the Supreme Court posted the next hearing in the matter for February 20, 2017.

According to the rules of Sabarimala temple, Young women are traditionally not allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple. “Only girls below the age of 10 and ladies above the age of 50 are permitted to climb up the hills to Sabarimala is the practice that has been followed, in respect of Sabarimala pilgrimage,” the rules state.

However, the reasoning for this varies. Some say this is because they are ‘unclean’ when menstruating, others claim the ban has been imposed because Lord Ayyappa- to whom the temple is dedicated – is considered a celibate yogi.

Reportedly, in September K Surendran, Kerala BJP general secretary had come out in support of entry of women of all age groups into the famous Sabarimala shrine, saying Lord Ayyappa, is not a “misogynist” and menstruation cycle is a “law of the nature” and should be viewed as “sacred”.

He went to suggest that shrine should be opened throughout the year for ‘darshan’ to reduce the heavy rush during the annual pilgrimage season (November-January).

Kadkampally Surendran, Kerala Dewaswom Minister, had in June said the LDF government was ready for a referendum on the entry of women into Sabarimala temple, reports said.

At a press conference, Surendran said the government would initiate discussions with all stakeholders and seek their opinion on allowing entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years into the famous hill shrine. It is to be noted that the stand of continuing the ban on entry of women in the temple was of left-led UDF government, which were at first accepted by the LDF government.

The Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the temple is defending the age-old tradition under challenge on the ground that it violated women’s right to equality.

“Can a biological phenomenon be ground for discrimination?” a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra had earlier asked temple management that contended the ban on entry of women was because they cannot maintain purity for 41 days – the duration of the pilgrimage.

“You are making distinction based on purity… Now the question is whether the Constitutional principles allow this?” the bench had said. It told the board that the tests of austere applied for men should be the same for women. “In Hindu religion, there is no denomination of a Hindu male or female. A Hindu is a Hindu,” the bench said stressing gender equality.

The court is hearing a public interest litigation challenging the decades-old tradition of keeping women out of one of the holiest Hindu shrines, which even allows in non-Hindus.

Last year, there was outrage when the chief of the Sabarimala Devasom Board, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, had said women will be allowed into the temple when a machine is invented to show if they are menstruating. Many women joined in #happytobleed campaign on social media.

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