November 14, 2019
India’s Supreme Court said on Thursday it will set law on women’s entry into temples and mosques after being asked to review its decision lifting a ban on some women entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala state.
The court deferred a decision on petitions seeking a review of its 2018 ruling to lift a ban on women of menstruating age entering the temple’s grounds.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said seven judges will take up issues relating to women entering any house of worship.
Gogoi said the question of whether women of all ages should be allowed into Sabarimala is part of a larger debate that includes issues like allowing Muslim and Parsi women to enter religious practices and female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
“Fresh opportunities to be given to all parties,” he said.
It wasn’t clear if the court might broaden its consideration of issues regarding women and religion. Gogoi is retiring, so will not among the seven judges weighing the matters.
The Sabarimala temple bars women age 10 to 50 from its grounds. It says the celibacy of the temple’s presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India’s constitution and women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples. Some Hindu figures consider menstruating women to be impure.
When the Sabarimala temple, one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage centers, opened its doors to females of menstruating age after the Supreme Court’s verdict in September last year, women weren’t able to enter as hundreds of protesters fought street battles with police to keep them out.
Indian courts have been gradually recognising rights of women, challenging deeply conservative Indian society. It last year scrapped a law which did not allow wives to bring criminal charges against adulterous husbands.