While we may speak of equal rights to all and discuss issues on the LGBTQIA community, women themselves even in this day and age remain subjected to prejudice and disqualification simply based on their gender.
The Sabarimala Temple (in Kerala) bars the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 citing ‘impurity’. Just one of the many injustices meted out to women under the garb of religion. Its time we thought these injustices through, spoke about them openly and made fanatics answerable.
What is so disturbing, filthy and putting off about menses? This happens to be a completely scientific and natural phenomenon that in fact speaks of the reproductive health and vitality of a young woman? Aren’t all the men in this world (including the prophets) only a product of a female womb that has undergone both menses and labour so as to create them?
Even the poor and illiterate farmer knows better; to worship the earth and not the seeds that can be randomly sown by anyone, anywhere. It is only the womb of the earth that undergoes the cycle of generation and regeneration and nurtures his plants to life.
How can an interpretation of a “God” (in this case, a God sworn to celibacy) be so feeble that he turns impure or gets turned on by the mere presence of a woman in the temple premises?
If menses is wrong and dirty and impure, how would one classify masturbation? If machines are proposed to be installed to bar menstruating women from entering the temple premises, will we also have machines to check if men have masturbated before entering the temple?
Can’t women proclaim similar love and piety for their deity without having their physical bodies subjected to a test? Where can it be proven that the Lord himself has decreed that only males of all ages could be his devotees and not menstruating women?
Even human beings sworn to celibacy do not refrain or avoid coming into contact with others of the opposite gender, then why does merely an idol of a God have to be so protected? If a menstruating woman may desecrate the idol of ‘The Celibate God’, does the logic equally apply to gay men as well? Will the temple also install means to check the sexual preferences of men entering the temple and touching the deity?
Why are only women always at the receiving end of most religious sanctions; be it their entry, their age, their clothes, their behaviour? If God is deemed to love all his ‘children’ equally, who is man to distinguish and demarcate who gets to enter God’s abode?
One of the oft heard responses to justify this action is saying, “It’s only leftist and feminist women who have a problem with this issue and most women even in that very state (Kerala) agree and abide by this centuries old diktat”.
Well my counter-argument is, “How many women who agree, have actually been given a choice to disagree or express their discontent at the diktat?” The pertinent question to ask women who agree with the rule is, “Would you have visited Sabarimala on a pilgrimage if this rule had never existed?”
It is one thing to know the rule and therefore follow it blindly for fear of retribution but it is quite another to get to know how they would feel if this rule didn’t exist all together.
For example, if liquor prohibition has been thrust upon the populace of Kerala and the ban is by and large adhered to, would mean that people’s preference for liquor have changed overnight and given a chance to reverse the decision people will still continue to abstain from alcohol?
And finally, Ayyappan is considered to be a warrior deity. He is revered for his ascetic devotion to Dharma – the ethical and right way of living, to deploy his military genius and daring yogic war abilities to destroy those who are powerful but unethical, abusive and arbitrary. Isn’t it completely archaic, abusive and arbitrary to base the devotion of an individual upon his/her age and gender? Would Ayappan, himself a devotee of Dharma, approve of this discrimination?
Sabarimala is but only a metaphor for what all major religions of the world have always professed. Their ‘rules and regulations’ largely fabricated and shaped by the minds of men are parochial, patriarchal and largely biased against the female human form holding our anatomies responsible for spreading vices, impurities and sin; forever questioning our faith a great deal more than theirs.
Written by Delshad Master