Judicial interventions in the recent past have ensured equal rights are accorded to both men and women at religious institutions. The Haji Ali Trust that manages the Haji Ali Dargah located off the Mumbai coast on Monday agreed in front of Supreme Court that it will allow women to access the innermost sanctum sanctorum of the shrine.
The move is a major victory for equal rights campaigners. Equal rights has been a contentious issue in India and one that has been boiling in public discourse for many decades.
Apart from the Haji Ali Dargah case, another progressive step was taken recently when a High Court scrapped the restrictions for women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Nashik. Such decisions give confidence and set a precedent for other cases to follow where equal rights is the core issue. Religious laws and rules have often overridden democratic principles in the country. But, the judiciary is acting to ensure that the status quo shifts to a balanced position from the current patriarchal and gender-biased religious practices.
The trust argued that the Islamic scriptures believe in equal rights for men and women but the ban was imposed because it was a grave sin for women to be near the shrine of a revered saint. The court, however, rightly dismissed such arguments. Finally, the trust has now agreed to allow women access from a separate entry seeking time of four weeks to make the necessary changes in the structure of the building.
Similarly, there are various reasons cited at Hindu temples for banning women like caste, class, gender, blocking entry during menstruation et al. Thousands of women are persecuted across the country for objecting to such practices and it needs to end. Judicial intervention is a concrete solution to end such orthodox practices and one that is relievingly being taken at the highest level at the Supreme Court.
The debate on triple talaq has also boiled down to what it is – a rights issue and not a religious issue. So, these are welcome decisions for the court’s to hear such matters with and delivering swift results that benefit the society. Equal rights in a house of worship is a fundamental right that has been suppressed for centuries due to male chauvinism and that needs to stop regardless of the place of worship – a dargah or a temple or any other place.
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