Whither Gender Equality in Religion?

You may or may not know a whole lot about it, but you would be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the Sabarimala Temple case being heard by a constitutional bench in Supreme Court.

I don’t feel invested in the outcome of this case. They could ban entry of women in all functional temples for all I care. At least then nobody would be able to emotionally blackmail me into visiting them. (They should leave the ones with historical importance open, though. Else I will scream discrimination!)

I care about gender equality. Religion, however, is a lost cause to me. Almost all the mainstream religions are essentially misogynist and trying to reconcile them with the ideas of equality – specifically gender equality – sounds futile to me. (If it offends you, great! At least you care about gender equality. If you agree, thank you, and you are welcome! If you think it doesn’t matter what I think, congratulations! You are the wise one.)

Photo Credit: ragesh ev

As can be guessed by now, I am not a religious person. And that is the reason that despite the question of gender equality involved here, I do not care much about the outcome of the case. Religion just doesn’t matter to me (Thank God, I live in a liberal, secular democracy! Irony intended.)

When you are in such a position, you are likely to think that this is an unnecessary fight. A waste of court’s time, a waste of resources, a waste of whatever else, on an issue that doesn’t matter. I would have been inclined to declare so a few years ago. But like a few things, I talked about earlier, I have changed my mind on this.

I can’t reconcile my feminism and (any) religion. But that doesn’t mean that others are not allowed to be both feminist AND religious. I may have my priorities, but I am no one to dictate what kind of equality is important for everyone else, and what isn’t. I will choose my fights, and so will everyone else. Just because religion is not important to me, I don’t get to say that it shouldn’t be important to you too and you shouldn’t fight for gender equality in religion.

I don’t know which way the court will go. Whichever way it does, it may not make much difference on the ground. Even if the court decides to lift the ban on women’s entry, perhaps the only women trying to go in would be the ones who want to prove a point. The “really” religious women may never want to visit a deity who doesn’t welcome them. Or they may surprise us by defying such patriarchal customs around deities and visiting Him in droves!

But irrespective of what happens, it is a good fight. I can’t invest myself enough in it to follow the court proceedings closely. But I cheer on!

P. S. The case may still be very important from the point of view of legal precedence. Especially since it is a constitutional bench that is hearing it right now. Other religious matters may come up in future whose effects could be more widespread than this particular issue’s are and the decisions there may be guided by the outcome of this one.

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