Gender discrimination

Constitution bench to decide on rule banning women’s entry into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple

The Supreme Court referred the matter to the five-judge bench, which will have to rule on whether the restriction was gender discriminatory.

The Supreme Court on Friday referred the matter of women’s restricted entry into the inner sanctum of Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple to a five-judge Constitution bench. The decision was made by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan, who framed six questions for the Constitution bench to consider.

The temple in Kerala does not allow women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter its premises. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala temple, has maintained that the rule is aimed at keeping menstruating women away from the temple as the deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate.

The Constitution Bench will decide whether the practice was gender discriminatory and violated the right to equality and religious freedom of women, The Hindu reported. It will also decide whether the restriction qualifies as an “essential religious practice” of the Hindu faith, over which the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction.

In January, the court had reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the ban on the entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala. In April 2016, the Supreme Court had had questioned the rampant gender discrimination at Sabarimala and asked temple authorities whether traditions were above Constitutional rights.

The Travancore Devaswom Board had warned the court that its verdict in the case would have consequences and effects on traditions and practices in other religions as well. The temple authorities had held that they would continue to oppose the entry of women into its inner sanctum.

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