Two women snuck by protesters at a major Hindu temple that has traditionally banned females of “menstruating age,” prompting riots.
It’s actually not illegal for women to enter the Sabarimala Temple, one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage centers. In fact, the Indian Supreme Court recently ruled that women must be allowed in. But far-right protesters didn’t get the memo.
Aggressive and angry sexists had been blocking women with force since October… until these two women finally got through.
Two women, accompanied by plainclothes police officers under the cover of darkness early on Wednesday morning, entered a centuries-old Hindu shrine in southern India that has long barred women of childbearing age — part of a continuing push for women’s equality in the country.
In response, protests broke out around Kerala, the state where the shrine, the Sabarimala Temple, is located. According to local news reports, the police moved relatives of one of the women who entered the temple into a safe house.
But when news broke that the women had made it inside the temple, a Hindu priest shut down the complex for “purification rituals,” which typically occur when blood is spilled or children accidentally urinate.
Several dozen women have tried to enter the temple since October, after India’s Supreme Court ruled that the ban on women of childbearing age was unconstitutional. But none made it inside as thousands of protesters blocked the temple’s entrance.
Those protests were met with counter-protests in the form of a “human chain” made of millions of people.
In the hours before the two women entered the temple on Wednesday, the Communist Party of India, which governs Kerala, organized other demonstrations — partly about access to the temple but also as a broad opportunity, organizers said, to highlight gender equality in a country recently named the world’s most dangerous for women.
On New Year’s Day, a “human chain” — a frequent form of protest in India — stood shoulder to shoulder along highways in southern India, creating a wall 300 miles long, according to party officials.
Communist Party said 5.5 million people were in that chain. The local police authorities estimated the number at three million.
“We are taking the pledge that we will uphold renaissance values,” the protesters chanted. “We will stand for equality for women! We will fight for secularism!”
If there is anything worth protesting, it’s equality through secularism, especially in a place like India, where both are sorely lacking.