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Religious Liberties And Women Rights

India is famous worldwide as democratic, republic, secular and sovereign country. It is popularly known for it’s rich and royal culture, sacred traditional customs and rituals. In Hinduism, women are worshipped as goddesses. Our religious scriptures believe that a woman represents strength of emotions, balance in life, high intellect and defines aesthetics. She is the creator, a very important element of the whole life cycle.

She is a replica of various goddesses in herself. She is a strong mother, adorable daughter and beautiful wife. She completes the world. One should worship her equally, as she brings life to existence. It is evident in the holy scriptures such as Manusmriti, which quotes – 
Yatra Naraystu Pujyante Ramante Tatra Devta

It means where women are worshipped, god resides there only. But the irony is the place where a woman is considered equal to goddess, not only slay innocent unborn lives on the basis of their identity of being a girl (a woman), but also make her suffer throughout her life by restricting her liberties, committing various violent offences against her, abusing her identity and existence, questioning her purity and what not? A woman has to face societal pressures, gender discrimination and sufferings in the name of culture and customs throughout her life.

She is even forbidden to retain her fundamental rights to participate in religious activities and rituals. It is believed that a woman is impure when she is menstruating and that is why women are barred from participating and practicing religious rituals and to enter the temple during their menstrual cycle. 

We all must have heard about the landmark case of Sabrimala temple with controversial judgements against discriminatory rules of the temple. Wherein, women between 10 to 50 years of age are specifically debarred to enter the temple as they are in their reproductive phase and between their menstrual cycle. This bar was officially imposed since 1991 and continued till 2018. Barring a specific gender to retain their lawful rights on the basis of a complete natural process, which is the core identity of oneself and an essential aspect to continue the chain of life, is nothing but a clear cut violation of their legal rights.

A woman has a right to equality before law, a right to religious liberties and also lawful rights against discrimination based on her sex, gender, status, etc. Any infringement to their fundamental rights are indeed an infringement of law and order. There are temples that bars women during her menstrual cycle and restrict them to stay away from religious rituals and place. Just because of the orthodox mindset and societal norms, these temples not only questions a woman’s purity on the basis of her menstruation process but also prohibits her to retain religious activities and worship the deity by the suppression of her will. No religious scriptures defines a woman as Impure.

 The Hon’ble Supreme Court and High Court of India have passed various landmark judgements supporting women’s religious rights such as in the landmark case of Haji Ali, in which the ban was lifted from the mosque by the court to grant an entry to all the Muslim women.

Similarly, a 400 year old tradition came to an end in Shani Shingnapur (A holy place in the state of Maharashtra), which restricted women’s right to offer prayers at the sacred platform and touch the deity at the Shani Shingnapur temple. The Court has made it clear that no woman will be discriminated or prohibited from visiting temples or practice their religious rights.

It was a huge achievement for all the women to overcome various hurdles, defeat societal barriers and get their rights, but yet this is not the end. To bring the change it is important to change the mindset of the society, to clear all the old myths, break superstitions and make people aware of the reality and law. Society needs to evolve with the time and forget the old partial customs. They must accept the creation of god. We have different body, different perceptions. One should treat them equally. As rightly mentioned by Swami Vivekananda –
“The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.”

Mere following the scriptures and worshipping goddesses on one hand and treating women as inferior gender and vulnerable status on the other hand, and still expecting those worships to benefit and fulfill one’s life with happiness and prosperity, does not make any sense. Mere worshipping girls/ women occasionally for few days and rest of the year committing crimes against them is unjust and unethical. There is high need to break the old gender stereotypes to liberate women in the new era. 

Major concern of religious activities and rights does not revolve around just one or two aforementioned factors but there is a need to highlight the importance of women rights and participation in religious activities as they affect a woman’s life on various aspects such as female feticide ( killing female fetuses ), marriage reforms, exclusion of women from religious rituals and institutions, barring their entry in graveyards, temples, mosques and unfair, unjust laws and biased customs and rituals forced on them.

Women never had equal rights and participation in religious matters of the society. Being a patriarchal society, male dominancy always ruled over everyone.  Religious matters and affairs were handled by just men of the society and interference by a woman was never entertained by the society.

Apart from cultural essence in India, superstitions and myths are also entertained on a large scale in the country. People believe that interference of woman in traditional rituals will make god angry and may lead to destruction. If a woman does not obey the rules then she commits sins and she will end up in hell. Woman are not supposed to touch any deity while she’s menstruating, a woman’s presence is barred from the graveyard and the list goes on.

People’s blind faith in such superstitions always been a reason behind the backwardness of the country. However, there are ample reasons put forth by the society to obstruct and prohibit a woman’s right from practicing and participating in religious activities and giving justifiable reasons for their Unlawful biased acts. Women contribute their everything to construct a better society but yet they are deprived from enjoying their fundamental rights as humans by the same society.

The world is evolving but still the situations for women is the same. It has not changed since many decades. They are asked to suppress their emotions, their voice and live in silence with fear to not make a move against society. Since decades they are told by the society what should be their duty, what they are supposed to do and what not. It seems like “the creator is being controlled by her own creations”. This is indeed a bitter truth of the society, where we all live in. Women are supposed to adjust every single time by the society, as they believe a woman is obliged to do so.

There are various notions put forth by the society forbidding women taking part in religious activities as to protect the holiness of the temple. The society believes men should be given privileges before woman as they are more deserving. Sexism is an important concern for the society. Gender differences and inequalities makes the whole scenario even worse when one gender is considered superior.

Inequality issues are everywhere even in our homes, we witnessed that women are forbidden to do certain religious activities, to participate or help in any religious rituals. As a society we must understand that a society is nothing without a woman’s existence.

We should empower women of the society by empowering all the women in our house. We should not be bias towards one specific gender but instead we should educate and equally consider other gender as well. After all, we are Humans and we all have certain rights by birth and we should not infringe each other’s legal rights.

In the name of religion, people fall prey to many superstitions and blindly believe the old customs, which were passed as cultural legacy to them. Legally if we analyze the whole scenario it’s evident that a lot of times both the guilty mind ( Mens Rea ) and guilty act ( Actus Reus ) can be present while committing heinous offences against women to satisfy superstitious beliefs. For instance, terminating female fetuses,  sacrificing female infants to worship goddesses for baby boy in the name of rituals.

These are called as Ritual killings. It is now rarely evident but still practiced secretly in many regions. In a recent case, a brutal murder of two twin girls came to limelight in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Wherein, two innocent girls lost their lives for the sake  of religious rituals. It is difficult to resist that even in this era such brutal crimes are happening because of the blind faith of people.

The society has left no parameters to judge a women from tip to toe. Her character is judged on the basis of her clothes, religious practices, thoughts and feelings and what not? No one cares how she feels anyway. Even in marriages in the name of rituals a woman has to go through certain tests to prove her purity. She is questioned for everything she has even for her life.

This whole thing gets worse because of the irrational beliefs and lack of knowledge in the society. We are the part of this society, we need to spot the difference between ethical practices and unethical activities. Barring women from her basic rights or continue serious offences in the name of religion should be strictly prohibited under the provisions of Indian law

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Muskan Karmajit Singh
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JL118795050602-06-0721

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