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Be It Sabarimala Or Triple Talaq, “Discrimination Is Discrimination Even When People Call It Tradition”

Posted: January 3, 2019

Whether it is the recent agitation over women entering Sabarimala, or practices in every religion that favour men over women, it’s time to stop treating ‘tradition’ as something unchangeable. 

“A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.“ – T.S. Eliot

There is a much heated debate in the Indian media after the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case of the Sabarimala and Shani shingnapur temples where the age old tradition to prohibit entry of women into these temples has been struck down by the court.

The judgment given by Supreme Court on September 28, 2018, paved the way for the entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala.

Articles 14, 15, 19 and 25 of the Constitution say that we cannot prevent women (or anyone based on gender or caste) from going to temples, mosques or churches as it is against their freedom of movement and freedom of religion. In Kerala however, we have seen a huge mass of women protest against this judgement, raising the question, if a majority of people themselves don’t want to change the tradition, then is there any use of law enforcement in this land?

Parampara and Riwaz

This is not the only incident where in the name of tradition a certain gender/caste is being discriminated against. Take the example of priests in any temple – you rarely find a pujari who is not a Brahmin. Try to look at all manual scavengers – in spite of the fact there is a law which prohibits this dehumanising practice in India, it continues to be caste driven; you will not find any upper caste individual in this kind of labour.

There was a time where people were divided based on their skills and later it became custom to continue the same skill and it was called as caste based on the profession .but nowadays anyone can do any kind of work .

There are many such age old traditions that need to be addressed. One such tradition is to separate a girl from her family and send her to stay with the husband’s family. If she resists inspite of all obstacles that occur in her life because of the mental trauma and cruelty inflicted by many husbands and in-laws, as per a recent judgement in the supreme court, ”A Hindu son can divorce his wife for the cruelty of trying to keep him away from his “virtuous commitment” to live with his elderly parents and provide shelter to them.” Our supreme court has established a divorce to a man on the grounds of “cruelty” because his wife refused to accommodate in a home with her in-laws, effectively ruling that a married woman must live with her husband’s family.

What about the man who cannot tolerate his wife’s family for a single day? Just because it’s a tradition to separate a woman from her  parental home, it becomes ‘cruelty’ and grounds for divorce for a man to be separated from his parents.

Women and people of all genders and castes have been taught that these traditions are made for their protection and that disobeying them may bring in tremendous misfortunes.

Karwa chauth is one such example which is glamourised today thanks to Ekta Kapoor and Bollywood. Here women keep a full day fast for the long lives of their husbands. Obviously the court cannot interfere in personal practices followed by women. We the women never question these traditions and rituals and take it easily in the name of parampara. This tradition is chauvinistic, regressive and misogynistic. Now this can not be stopped by making a law against it because it will go against the freedom of religious practice.

Yet another age-old wedding tradition is the Kanyadaan i.e. an act where you donate your daughter to her future husband/in-laws. It shows how we treat a woman like a commodity or object – you can donate only what you own, how is a father the owner of his daughter passing her on to her future owners? Moreover, the name of the ritual is kanyadaan which means that only a virgin (‘pure’) girl can be donated. If our government interferes and make a strict law to stop donating a human being, then our so called Hindutva will be in danger!

Until two decades before independence temples in India did not allow Dalits entry. Because of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi Dalits were given equal rights, but in every aspect of social life in every realm of society they still face discrimination. Even now in many parts of India Dalits are not invited for a feast or any auspicious occasion by Savarnas. Strict laws are there but Dalits continue to face serious discrimination. If you have a belief that those in cities don’t discriminate against Dalits, just look at your domestic worker, driver, waiter and all low paid workers – the majority will be Dalits. The recent suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad university is an eye opener for those who think discrimination against Dalits only happens in villages.

The religious books of Hinduism and Islam are also profoundly encumbered in favour of patriarchy. No doubt preachers will quote some verses from the Vedas or the Quran where some respect is given to women, but most holy books also consider men as superior and therefore authorised to control everything including women.

Cause and effect

We can say that there are multiple reasons behind such discrimination in society but the strongest reason seems to be that people want to show themselves as superior and stronger so they can rule over the victims. Some people may say that these traditions keep them protected from external threats but no reason can justify discrimination. Illiteracy, poverty and slow development has also been a strong reason behind such rigid customs in our society.

There are very prolonged effects on people who are being given unfair treatment from their own people. Some of the consequences are anxiety, depression, insecurity and in some cases even leading to suicide. The consequences of discrimination are also slow economic development as well because a certain class of people are not contributing positively towards the well being of the nation and they are left behind with less access to resources and opportunities.

Our constitution has given enough rights to every human being irrespective of their race, religion, caste and gender but in the name of tradition and protection we are just exploiting our own people and leading to complete chaos in society.

“Discrimination is discrimination even when people call It tradition.” -Dashanne Stokes

Image courtesy The Quint video

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  1. Triple talaq is a personal /domestic issue and if the women in the community are protesting against it, there’s a reason. But Sabarimala case is not the same and not comparable at all. There is nothing personal here. There are several Ayyappa temples where women can visit. Why is only Sabarimala targeted? Besides, there are several temples where women preside as priests (say Mannarashala) since centuries, and many others where men are not allowed. Why are those not being mentioned? Kindly don’t comment on these things if you don’t know facts. Spirituality and equality are two different things. If you are spiritual you will understand the other’s perspective and not support the unwarranted violence that is happening over a place of worship and devotion, in the name of women equality and empowerment. Two women entered the temple premises yesterday in the wee morning hours, sitting in an ambulance, under police protection when only few were around in the temple premises, lying that they were transgenders. Are they spiritual? If yes, they wouldn’t have lied before god. They are only vitiating the social atmosphere by their mulish will to prove.
    Besides, what is the need for temples at all if anybody can do puja (not necessarily a brahmin)? Everybody can do their own pooja. Why the need for a person who has at least some knowledge and training of rites and rituals? I don’t see any relevance or the point that you are trying to make by writing this.
    There is a tradition in the Sabarimala temple which is affecting nobody’s personal life. The people who are protesting on the streets are atheists, non-hindus and activists with a political agenda. I have seen videos of women protesting outside the temple wearing burqas. These women can’t remove the burqas because they don’t want to go against their own religion and they talk of entering a hindu temple. And the biggest joke is they don’t even know why they are standing there, with some of them replying (when asked) that they are standing there because their husbands have told them to. So what are we talking about here?

    • I am sorry but you need to do your homework even before you write on issues like these. And it would be just better if certain things are not commented or opined upon.

    • Anamika Kumari -

      preventing the entry of women in a certain holy/god’s place can not be justified at all whether it affects personal life or not .I am not favoring those nonhindus or whoever who has nothing to do with this temple are protesting .But as a civil society we must not stop a hindu women to enter sabrimala and respect our supreme court’s judgement .This act is same as centuries old untouchability ,that time also it was done for a group of people ,now also sabrimala issue is for a group of women.

  2. Anamika Kumari – Do the local women really want to enter? Kindly check other posts and shares on this issue. And this is no issue of untouchability here as since several decades men & WOMEN DEVOTEES of all castes & creeds have been visiting the place (I know that for a fact). It’s only an age restriction & that too in ONLY THIS ONE temple. Please get your facts straight and also what the local ladies really want. THEY ONLY WANT TO PRESERVE THE TRADITION OF SABARIMALA…note that I mention it as “ONLY SABARIMALA”…whereas in other lakhs of temples they are freely allowed irrespective of age, caste or creed. So what are we making noise about? Lets simply respect it.

  3. Besides I would agree to your allegation of discrimination had the same restriction for women been present in all temples. But that’s not the case. Besides, the restrictions are based on some reasons. In fact there are temples where men are not allowed (you can google it) and some where women preside as priests. Have the men made a noise about it anytime? Where are we women headed? We are only slipping from our main objectives.
    I agree there are discrimination issues prevalent across India in various ways but this is not one of it. The temple is located in the land of Kerala and it belongs to them in full sense. So let’s simply respect their tradition. What’s so problematic about that? As per me the SC decision is a flawed one because it has only gone by constitutional rights alone without taking into account the interests and feelings of the locals. You try these stunts in Maharashta and see what response it evokes. So is kerala unjustified in reacting this way? It is THEIR culture.

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