Mumbai: Temples in Maharashtra can no longer cite centuries-old traditions to ban the entry of women. The Bombay High Court ruled today that offering prayers at a temple "is the fundamental right of a woman and the government's fundamental duty to protect their (women) right."
- Women to be given equal access to Maharashtra temples, says High Court
- Women not allowed in inner-most area of temple to Lord Shani or Saturn
- Will offer prayers at that temple tomorrow, says activist Trupti Desai
The Maharashtra government has said it will take all steps to comply with the order by enforcing a law that provides six months in prison for preventing anyone from entering a temple.
"This is a victory for all women and for the constitution," said activist Trupti Desai pledging to pray tomorrow at a famous temple to Lord Shani or Saturn in the Ahmednagar district of the state. Ms Desai has been stopped in the past by the police and hundreds of locals, including women, from forcing her way into the Shani Shingnapur temple, where women are not allowed into the inner sanctum.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has in the recent past made his stand clear by declaring that "Indian culture and the Hindu religion have always given women the right to worship."
But the government has stressed in court that while state laws call for equal access for women, it cannot force temples to open up parts for women that are off-limits for men as well.
"The court has given a landmark judgment. Men and women have to be treated equally in 21st century," said Shaina NC, a spokesperson for his party.
Last year, after a woman worshipper managed to offer her prayers to the idol at the Shani Shingnapur temple, an elaborate cleansing ritual was immediately carried out by a priest.
The Supreme Court is in the process of deciding whether to outlaw a ban on women of reproductive age at the popular Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala.