Sabarimala Temple case: Gender Equality V Religious belief


  • Prohibition of women’s entry to shrines solely on the basis of womanhood is derogatory to women and their fundamental rights.
  • Authorities must uphold a stern approach towards gender equality

What is the significance of Sabrimala temple?

  • Sabarimala is the second largest seasonal pilgrimage after the Islamic holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
  • An estimated 3.5 crore Hindu pilgrims visited the shrine last year

Why is entry at Sabrimala banned for women?

  • The Sabarimala temple restricts entry only for menstruating women.
  • There are restrictions on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years in the shrine because women of menstruating age can’t be allowed on account of “purity”.
  • The ban on ‘menstruating women’ was enforced under Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules 1965.
  • The board states that “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship”.

What has happened so far?

  • In 1991, the Kerala high court upheld the ban in the S.Mahendran vs the Secretary, Travancore case and directed the Devasom Board to implement it.
  • The India Young Lawyers Association revived the issue in Supreme Court through a PIL contending that Rule 3(b) violates constitutional guarantees of equality, non-discrimination and religious freedom (Articles 14, 15 and 25).
  • The Supreme Court recently indicated that it will refer the Sabarimala temple entry restriction on women of a certain age to a Constitution Bench.
  • The Supreme Court on Friday referred to its constitution bench on October 20th 2017, the matter pertaining to the ban on entry of women at Sabarimala.

How is the ban contradicting the essence of the constitution of India?

  • Preventing women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple with an irrational and obsolete notion of “purity” offends the equality clauses in the Constitution.
  • It denotes a patriarchal and partisan approach.
  • The entry prohibition takes away the woman’s right against discrimination guaranteed under Article 15(1) of the Constitution.
  • It further curtails the religious freedom assured by Article 25(1).
  • Prohibition of women’s entry to the shrine is done on the basis of womanhood and the biological features associated with womanhood, which Article 51A (e) aims to renounce.

What are the various Articles guaranteeing religious and gender equality?

Article 15 of the Indian Constitution

  • Article 15 of Indian Constitution prohibits any discrimination done on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • It is important to note that Article 15 of the Indian constitution states that no person shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Every person shall have equal access to public places like public parks, museums, wells, bathing ghats and temples etc.

Special provision for women and children.

  • Special provisions may be made for the advancements of any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution

  • Articles 25 to 28 states make India a secular state.
  • 42nd Amendment inserting the word “secular” make the assertion firmer.
  • The Article 25 states that every individual is “equally entitled to freedom of conscience” and has the right “to profess, practice and propagate religion” of one’s choice.

Violation of Article 25

  • This constitutional provision does not give individuals the right to conduct animal sacrifice and perform religious rituals on a busy street or public place that causes inconvenience to others.
  • Though the right to perform rituals is protected under this Article, yet the state retains the power to formulate laws to regulate “economic, financial, political.

What is India’s stand on women rights?

  • The rights available to woman (ladies) in India can be classified into two categories, namely as constitutional rights and legal rights.
  • The constitutional rights are those which are provided in the various provisions of the constitution.
  • The legal rights, on the other hand, are those which are provided in the various laws (acts) of the Parliament and the State Legislatures.

Constitutional Rights to Women:

  • The rights and safeguards enshrined in the constitution for women in India are listed below:
  • The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex [Article 15(1)].
  • It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women [Article 51-A(e)].

Article 26 in The Constitution of India 1949

  • Freedom to manage religious affairs subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right
  • to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
  • to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
  • to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
  • to administer such property in accordance with law

What is the suggested way ahead?

  • Article 25(2)(b) enables the state “(to provide) for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of the Hindus.”
  • While delivering its judgment, the Supreme Court should keep in mind that none among the devotees of Sabarimala have come to court demanding changed rules.
  • It is essential to prevent monopolization of religious rights by a few under the guise of management of religious institutions.
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