Temple ban

Indian high court to rule on accepting menstruating women in places of worship

Indian Muslims and visitors inside the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

After a three-year legal battle, the Mumbai high court is expected to rule on January 18 whether it is unconstitutional to ban menstruating women from temples and mosques. While women have equal rights of worship in churches, many temples and mosques ban women on their periods from entering. The Sabarimala temple in Kerala even banned all women aged between 10 and 50, with the president of the temple’s board, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, arguing that he could allow women “after a machine has been invented and installed to detect if they have their period.” His comments caused an outcry in the country, however, as many women started to publicly dispute the idea that menstruation is unclean or shameful, and a Facebook campaign called “Happy To Bleed”, challenging the authorities’ sexism took root. The public debate resulted in the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, BMMA) filing the petition with the courts. The organization’s lawyer doubts whether the court will be willing to give a verdict, however: “The Indian courts are reluctant to interfere in religion, particularly with a Muslim issue like this where there could be a backlash. Conservative Muslims might say their religion is being targeted by Hindus. No one has the judicial courage to take a stand in favour of women,” he told The Guardian. Noorjehan Nia, co-founder of the BMMA, believes the ban goes against the equal rights enshrined in the Indian constitution, but agrees that the courts might not give any verdict, given how “complex and controversial” the case is. Nevertheless, a positive ruling “would send out a powerful message to women from all faiths who have been excluded from their place of worship.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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