A ban on menstruating women entering an ancient Hindu temple has been overturned by India’s Supreme Court. The Friday ruling gives women the right to enter the 12th century Ayyappan shrine that had been closed since 1991 to female devotees aged 10 to 50 — roughly the ages between puberty and menopause.
“Historically, women have been treated with inequality,” said the chief justice, Dipak Misra, as he delivered the verdict. “Society has to undergo a perception shift.”
Menstruation carries the stigma of impurity in India, and women who are having their period are often excluded from communal cooking and eating places and from entering temples. Nikita Azad, who petitioned the Supreme Court back in 2015, said the court’s judgment “definitely sends a message,” while recognizing societal change will take time.
Azad, now a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University researching menstruation and capitalism for her master’s degree in women’s studies, has always wanted to visit the shrine with her parents — like the other 50 million pilgrims granted access annually.
She plans to make her own trip a year from now to the mountain site, which is surrounded by a densely forested tiger reserve, after completion of her degree.
The verdicts comes soon after two other trailblazing verdicts in September, that decriminalized adultery and gay sex, suggesting the emergence of a more liberal court in India.Temple authorities have responded that they have the right to manage their own religious affairs, however, and will appeal the verdict.
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