Millions of women in India have joined forces to form a 385-mile human wall, while demanding equal access to the Sabarimala shrine.
The centuries-old Hindu temple in the Southern Indian state of Kerala has traditionally been off-limits to women aged between 10 and 50, in the belief it would be contaminated if visited by women of menstruating age.
India’s Supreme Court overturned that restriction in September. In October, two women were able to come within yards of the temple, only with assistance from 100 police who offered protection from the women’s stone-throwing opponents. By November, the Washington Post reported, at least a dozen attempts by women to visit the shrine had been thwarted by protesters who physically blocked them, also threatening violent retaliation if they entered the temple.
The decision to form the 385-mile long wall of women was made in early December by the state’s left-wing CPI(M)-led government, and backed by several Hindu organizations that support the entry of women of all ages into the temple. The turnout was so great, at various points the women stood two or three rows deep and shoulder to shoulder to create the wall.
Addressing the women after the event, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “The women’s wall is a major warning against those conservative and communal forces which are engaged in collective attempts to deny women their constitutional rights and renaissance values,” the New Indian Express reported.
He deemed the wall “a major proclamation that Kerala’s women society stands with progressive thinking.”