In the last article, we spoke about the ban on women entering the Shani Shingnapur temple. In this article, we shed light on how other cultures treat women when it comes to rituals.
The famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala does not give entry to women in the age group of 10 to 50 because the powerful Travancore Devasom Board, which controls the temple, believes women who menstruate are impure and must not be given access to the hilltop shrine.
“The temple cannot prohibit entry (women), except on the basis of religion,” said the Supreme Court judges who heard the case on January 11. A final verdict is expected on February 8.
Earlier, temple board head Prayar Gopalakrishnan stirred a debate by stating that women would be able to access the temple only after a machine is created that would function like a body scanner to determine which women were “pure” enough to gain entry into the shrine.
Generally, menstruating Hindu women self-prohibit from entering temples during those three days.
Mosques in India
The Haji Ali Dargah trust is fighting a legal battle to defend its ban on women entering the shrine’s inner sanctum (mazaar). “It is a grievous sin as per Islam for women to be in close proximity of the grave of a male Muslim saint,” the trust’s lawyer argued in the Bombay High Court in October last year while responding to a Mumbai-based Muslim women’s group’s petition that claims it to be a case of gender discrimination.
Dr. Zakir Naik, an Indian Islamic preacher, argues that there’s no statement in the Quran or the Sahih Hadith which prevents women from entering the mosque. “We do not believe in intermingling of sexes. People come more for eve-teasing and bird watching than to pray. There are separate entrances for man and woman…a woman cannot stand in the front because if a woman stands in front, but natural the man behind will get disturbed. That is why in Islam, the women have to stand behind. You go to Saudi Arabia… women are allowed in the mosque, you go to London… women are allowed in the mosque, you go to America… women are allowed in the mosque. It is only in India, that they are prevented.”
Although Christianity remains the most progressive religion, there are instances of discrimination against women in the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest sect within Christianity. The Roman church has denied priesthood for women. Only priests can rise in the hierarchy to become bishops, cardinals and ultimately, the Pope. The result is a male-dominated leadership. Jesus Christ had refused to condemn a woman for adultery. “Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone” he had said. Yet 2,000 years later, the Church persists with its patriarchal power structure.