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Religious Liberty and Women Rights

A country will rise only when its women will grow and develop their abilities and hidden talents. This is possible only when she gets freedom and independence in all spheres of life. Be it economic, political, social, legal and religious sphere. Our constitution has provided women with all liberties, it is society which puts restrictions and limits women from accessing many of her rights. There is need to re-examine such restrictions and allow women to get what she deserves. Society as a whole should play role in this direction.

In India, on one hand we worshipped mother goddess and personify women as her image but on the other hand we put several restrictions on her entry in the temples and religious places. We all believe in famous Manusmriti quote which goes like, "Yatra Naraystu Pujyante Ramante Tatra Devta" (Where women are worshipped, god will reside there only) but restricts her from visiting sanctum sanctorum by considering it immoral act.

Various reasons are cited to support these restrictions but with no rational proofs. Example - It will destroy asceticism and celibacy of deity, women are impure and above all what is chilling is in Sabarimala temple where age criteria is set that is 10-50 years old women are specifically debarred. This is because they are in there reproductive phase and are menstruating. This thinking has no proofs to substantiate itself. Menstruation is natural biological phenomenon which helps women to become mother and complete women. Also no explanation on how it will destroy celibacy of god. All these are irrational and orthodox beliefs. This is nothing but patriarchial mindset of our society who considered women as adjunct to men in every field and second class citizen in religious acts.

This is clear violation of fundamental rights of women; Right to equality before law (Article 14), Right to religious freedom and right against discrimination on basis of sex (Article 15). It is taking away free will of women in religious sphere and deprives her of her religious rights. This is clear cut example of religious fundamentalism and illogical issues that stem from minds of orthodox elements of society. Even Supreme Court gives judgment that women will not be discriminated or prohibited from visiting inner areas of temples. Recently with the efforts of Bhoomata brigade leader Trupti desai that the gates of Shani Shingnapur and Haji Ali opened for women. This is a big achievement on part of women right activists and highlights the inner strength of modern women and her capability to overcome any hurdle which prevented her from getting her rights. But victory is still to gain.

Despite all efforts Sabarimala shrine do not allow women in sanctum sanctorum and saying that even 1500 years ago women were not allowed. No ancient writings supporting this statement is found. It is 21st centuary modern world .There is need to stop such discriminations especially in case of women to prevent them from exploitation and inferior treatment. Secular and value education should be provided from very basic classes so that it gets imprinted in young minds as children are very impressionable. Research work on ancient texts which substantiates equality among men and women should be done. Strong political will is also very much required to carry out these reforms.

Hence there is need that both men and women come together to fight for this cause only then required success will be achieved. Undoubtedly at this time we need women leaders but along with that we need men who honour feminism within them. Only then women will get all rights including religious liberties. And this will then bring women development in particular and development of country in general. In the words of Swami Vivekananda

"The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women."

-Siddharth Sharma

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