Islamic practice cited to justify bar on women in Sabarimala

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New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) The Travancore Devaswom Board on Tuesday cited the Islamic practice of barring women from entering mosques to justify the prohibition on women in the age group of 10 to 50 years from entering the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

Calling it a “bonafide belief”, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipaak Misra that women were not allowed to enter mosques and cited other places of worship where women were barred from entering during their menstruating period.

Singhvi, appearing for the Devaswom Board, described the Sabarimala temple as a denominational temple whose practices could not be called into question.

Asserting that the practice of barring women from entering the temple was not discriminatory, Singhvi said: “The maximum number of devotees are women.”

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“Maximum number of devotees at Sabarimala temple are women. It is not something that the male chauvinistic society has imposed on women,” said Singhvi.

Apparently unimpressed by the argument, Justice D.Y. Chadrachuud, referring to the predominantly male chauvinistic patriarchal society, said that right from the birth, woman were made to go through social conditioning on how to behave, what to say, what to do.

Can a public temple practice prohibition, asked CJI Misra.

Once again making a comparison with the Muslim Shia practice of self-flagellation during Muharram mourning procession, Singhvi said: “My belief may be fickle, irrational. There is a practice of self-flagellation by the Shias. Many will call it barbaric, others will say it is religious.”

Certainly it is not in consonance with the notion of 2018 but still it is my belief, Singhvi said, asserting the practice of prohibiting women in the age of 10 to 50 years can’t be called in question.

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As Justice Chadrachud said that the puberty age was not applied to men as it was done in the case of women, Singhvi said: “I can’t prohibit men from entering the temple as they don’t have this disability.

“You are in the realm of speculation that men who go to the temple do observe 41 days of celibacy,” observed Chief Justice Misra. “You impose a condition which is impossible.”

The day-long arguments by Singhvi saw the court telling him that prohibiting women from entering the temple in the age of 10 to 50 years was not a practice which was time immemorial and it had not been established that it was a denominational temple.

The Constitution bench is hearing an October 13, 2017 reference by a three-judge bench which had framed four questions to be addressed by it.

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