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Right to pray

The Bombay High Court has held that entry to temples was a fundamental right of women and it was the state’s fundamental duty to protect it. Shani Shinganapur is known as the only village in the country where houses do not have doors and locks, and the village remains theft-free. Ultimately it is the fundamental right of a woman and the government’s duty to protect women’s rights. Taking a swipe at religious customs and temple entry restrictions is violating women’s constitutional rights. Women of any religion should be allowed to practice their religion without any coercion. Restriction on entry of women in any temple is “unfair”. The Supreme Court bench on the Sabarimala row also stated that “The temple cannot prohibit entry except on the basis of religion. Unless you have a constitutional right, you cannot prohibit entry.”

There is no place for discrimination in Hindu culture. Celibacy is not the exclusive privilege of men. Article 25 of our Constitution says ‘throw open’ the doors of public religious spaces to all human race. Right of ‘Darshan’ in any temple of the country is a fundamental right of the citizens of India irrespective of gender, caste or creed. Those trying to tamper with its traditions should keep in mind the hurt they cause to millions of devotees. The fundamental duties mentioned in Article 51(A) of the Constitution states that it is the duty of every citizen “to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women” and “to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. Under the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956, if any temple or person prohibits any person from entering a temple then he or she faces a six-month imprisonment. To get real empowerment of women and to ensure gender equality we need to look deeply on various issues and subjects that are still taboo.

It is clear that women must have equal rights in everything that society has to offer without false walls and taboos put in place by the privilege of men that has come down the ages – perpetuated by a male priestly upper class, blindly followed in fear of ‘godly reprisal” by the masses. One would find that women are more religious, often more deeply than their male counterparts. Women have been learning the Vedas and also performing religious practices. Prayers and worship are mind-related, not body-related. Hence, it is natural for women devotees to seek permission for worship at the temple. Der se aye lekin durusta aye.

Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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