November 2018 Church & State | AU Bulletin

India’s Supreme Court has ruled that women can’t be barred from entering the historic Sabarimala Temple in a ruling that expands gender-equality rights.

The temple, a frequent site for Hindu pilgrims, had banned women from ages 10-50 from entering on the grounds that they might be menstruating and thus be “unclean.”

The court ruled 4-1 in late September that this form of discrimination could not be used to prevent women from worshipping at the facility.

“Religion cannot be the cover to deny women the right to worship,” observed Chief Justice Dipak Misra. “To treat women as children of a lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality.”

The temple is located in a mountainous region of southern India in the state of Kerala. An estimated 50 million pilgrims visit it every year.

Chhavi Methi, a women’s-rights activist, told the Associated Press that she welcomed the ruling but worries that it might not be followed. 

“I am doubtful the temple authorities would take it in the right spirit,” she said. “Women would accept it, but its implementation might pose a problem.”

India is officially a secular country, but its courts have lately been taking steps to ensure that religious groups do not discriminate on the basis of gender.