Indian Women Barred from Temple Despite Court Order Vow to Keep Fighting

Policemen patrol past Hindu devotees as they wait in a queue to pray at a temple during the Mahashivratri festival. A Mumbai court last week said it is the fundamental right of a woman to enter any place of worship that allows men access, and that the state should protect this right. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI, April 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Scores of women who were barred entry to a Hindu temple in western Maharashtra state despite a court order in their favour have vowed to carry on the fight for equal access to places of worship, with the government also backing the court’s stand.

A Mumbai court last week said it is the fundamental right of a woman to enter any place of worship that allows men access, and that the state should protect this right.

Yet villagers prevented the women from entering the temple, with police dragging away and detaining the activists briefly.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over the weekend reiterated his support for the court order.

“There is no place for discrimination in Hindu culture,” he said at a public rally. “We will implement the honourable high court’s decision in true spirit.”

The Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar in western India has barred women for centuries from the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Shani, or Saturn. It is one of a handful of Hindu temples in the country that does not allow women entry.

The fight for equal access for women has sparked similar campaigns in other places of worship and triggered a wider debate on women’s rights, with the hashtag #RightoPray trending on Twitter.

The popular Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in southern Kerala state, which denies entry to women of reproductive age, is the subject of a petition in the Supreme Court.

A separate group of women is demanding access to a landmark mosque in Mumbai.

Trupti Desai, leader of a group that has led the protest for entry in the Shani Shingnapur temple, said they would file a contempt petition against the state if it failed to do so.

Authorities at the Trimbakeshwar temple in Maharashtra, which is also the subject of protests by women for denying them access, on the weekend said it would not allow men or women to enter the inner sanctum henceforth.

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