The Kerala government’s U-turn in the Supreme Court on unrestricted women’s entry at Sabarimala turns the debate on its head. The ruling Marxists’ shift must be welcomed as it upholds the key principle of absolute gender equality. A Communist professing belief in an ideology founded on the highest principle of equality can hardly not support a didactic move like this to expose gender injustice. The debate may be complicated as matters of faith are dragged into the public domain, but progressive societies need to handle such issues in a way that obscurantist beliefs with no basis in science aren’t allowed to flourish in a male-dominated society.
It is most peculiar that only menstruating women are not allowed entry as if they are expected to live in an alien environment as in medieval times for what is a periodic bodily condition. To justify such a ban as a matter of faith rails against modernism. The Devaswom board’s lawyer may have argued that a government can’t change its stand according to convenience, but should such a pedantic view prevent the onset of enlightenment in a government? The judge’s wisdom in calling for an examination of the right of women not to be excluded put paid to that argument. In an age where so many faiths are veering towards modernist views, including at Mumbai’s Haji Ali, there’s no reason why a woman’s right to worship Lord Ayyappa shouldn’t be upheld even if it takes time for a decision to evolve after considering all viewpoints.