IT is shameful and condemnable that the BJP and RSS are seeking to attack the Left Government for upholding the Supreme Court verdict lifting the ban on the entry of little girls and women between the ages of 10-50 into the Sabarimala temple. A BJP leader - actor Kollam Thulasi - has declared that women entering Sabarimala will be “torn into two pieces.” Women journalists and students covering the Sabarimala issue are being violently attacked and prevented from even approaching the vicinity of the temple. The Kerala police is failing to act against the violent mobs.
The SC verdicts invalidating Instant Triple Talaq the Sabarimala ban on temple entry for girls and women of menstruating age rightly held that religious traditions and practices cannot be any excuse for the violation of women's constitutional equality and rights. By trying to claim credit for the Instant Triple Talaq verdict but violently opposing the Sabarimala verdict, BJP is exposing its double standards and its utter lack of respect for women’s rights. BJP is eager to use women’s rights as a pretext for communal prejudice and violence - criminalising Instant Triple Talaq and attacking inter-faith marriages in the name of “rescuing women” from “love jehad”. But in fact, they defend regressive patriarchal practices and even sexual violence in the name of “Hindutva” politics.
It is unconstitutional and discriminatory to debar entry to temples or other religious places based on either caste or gender. Human beings project our own values on our gods - and patriarchal values that put the burden of men’s celibacy or sexual choices on women are deeply damaging to women in real life. A woman who is both a Sabarimala devotee and a mother of a young girl has rightly argued in a petition to the Supreme Court, that the arguments made by Hindutva groups in the writ petition against the SC verdict insult not only girls and women but also the image of the very same God Ayyappa whom they claim to defend. She has pointed out that the argument that the presence or sight of little girls and women could cause Ayyappa to break his celibacy sends the message that girls and women are sexual objects whose very sight “provokes” desire in men and Gods alike. By arguing that even a God can claim to lose control over his sexual desire in the presence of a little girl or a woman, the opponents of the SC verdict are giving men an excuse and a licence for rape and sexual exploitation. This is further illustrated by the statement of a Sabarimala Temple Board member that women’s entry into the temple would turn Sabarimala into a “sex tourism” hub.
Ironically, the women who are being mobilised now to prevent women’s entry into Sabarimala are mostly from the very same oppressed communities which have had to fight against the Brahminical traditions that banned women from these communities from covering their breasts.
It is also condemnable that the Congress party in Kerala is joining the BJP in attacking the LDF Government for respecting the SC verdict. The Congress uses the ‘Save Constitution’ slogan to target the BJP - why does it join the BJP in attacking the Constitutionally recognised rights and equality of women? The fight to save the Constitution and resist fascism is compromised and weakened by such opportunistic unity of the Congress with the BJP on this basic democratic question of women’s equality.