Delivering its verdict against the archaic customs that prevent women from entering certain places of worship, the High Court of Bombay has decided to take the Maharashtra Government to task, saying that although it never played a part in enforcing this tradition in the Shani Shignapur temple in the state, it hadn’t taken any steps to eradicate this gender bias either.
Last November, there was furore amongst women’s rights group everywhere after a priest went to the extent of conducting a ‘cleansing ceremony’ with milk and oil washing the platform where the idol is erected, when a woman worshipper climbed on to it to pay her respects.
Granting the Maharashtra government two days to present an argument defending the discrimination enforced at the famous temple dedicated to Shani, or Saturn, the Court asked, “If women enter temples, does it affect purity?” They further reasoned, “No law prevents women from entering a place of worship; if men are allowed, then women too should be permitted access,” as reported by an NDTV article.
The Ahmednagar establishment that attracts on an average 3 million pilgrims and worshippers yearly, has for centuries barred women from its sanctum sanctorum. A women’s rights outfit decided to take matters in their own hands, and stormed the structure, and found that they were also up against scores of local women who have been upholding this custom all their lives, including the newly-elected head of the trust that governs the temple, who is also a woman. The police intervened en-route and dispersed the crowd.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had tweeted his support saying, “A change in tradition in accordance with the times is our culture. Discrimination in worshipping is not our culture.”
“It is the state government’s duty to protect the rights of women…if it is the sanctity of the deity that you are worried about, then let the government make such a statement,” said the Court today. The Court is also enforcing laws that will entail six months of jail for anyone who restricts entry to a temple in the state.