Allowing women inside Sabarimala temple in Kerala would lead to “immoral activities” and turn the place into a tourist spot like Thailand, the chief of Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, said, according to the Hindustan Times. His comments came hours after the Supreme Court referred the matter of women’s restricted entry into the inner sanctum of Sabarimala temple to a five-judge Constitution bench.
“If women are allowed, we can’t ensure their security,” Hindustan Times quoted Travancore Devaswom Board chief Prayar Gopalakrishnan as saying. “We will not allow Sabarimala to become Thailand. Even if the court opens its doors, I don’t think self-respecting women will dare to go up to the hill shrine.”
Gopalakrishnan said the restriction for women was a matter of security as well as tradition. “What will be the situation if women between the ages of 10 to 50 have to climb uphill under challenging weather conditions without any safety?” News18 quoted him as saying. “If women are allowed to enter the shrine, women police officers will have to be deputed for security. This will lead to a lot of issues, including immoral activities.”
Kerala Minister for Devaswoms and Tourism Kadakampally Surendran criticised Gopalakrishnan for his comments. In a Facebook post, Surendran claimed that the TDB chief considered women who go to Sabarimala as shameless. He also asked Gopalakrishnan to apologise for his remark.
The temple in Kerala does not allow women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter its premises. The Travancore Devaswom Board 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.