‘Shun gender discrimination at places of worship’

Gender discrimination, in any form, at any place of worship, should be abhorred and the ongoing controversy over women’s entry to Sabarimala is meaningless, former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair has said.

“Whether it is a Hindu temple, a mosque or a church, gender discrimination should not be permitted in a civilized society,” he said.

Mr. Nair told
The Hindu
that the so-called practice of denying entry for menstruating women to Sabarimala was not beyond 50 years old.

According to him, Muslim women who wished to offer prayers at mosques too might be permitted to do so as in the case of Haji Ali Dargha in Mumbai.

Mr. Nair said he himself had his customary ‘choroonu’ ceremony at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala 78 years ago. He repeated the claim that his young mother too was very much present along with his father and other relatives there.

“There were also reports of a young female member of the erstwhile Travancore royal family offering prayers at Sabarimala,” he said.

“Nowadays, hardly 10% of the people visiting Sabarimala observe the customary 41-day penance (vrithom) prior to the pilgrimage to the forest shrine. Many others treat the pilgrimage as a trip of their convenience to the Ayyappa shrine. In this context, what is the logic behind the argument that menstruating women should not be permitted to enter Sabarimala as they are unable to observe the 41-day vrithom?’’ asks Mr. Nair.

Mr. Nair said menstruation period is the source of life on earth.

“Denying entry for women in a particular age group to Sabarimala was hypocrisy at its worst and male chauvinism at its best,” he said.

If there is any security problem, especially in the backdrop of the heavy rush during the annual pilgrimage season, the government had to address the issue, Mr. Nair said.

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