BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES
Why women shouldn't fight for entry to Shani temple
This demand for religious rights only reinforces the belief that religion matters.
- Total Shares
The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of god gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.
- Jimmy Carter, 2009, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia.
Once feared and avoided, Lord Shani is the new favourite of the god-fearing. Shani Shingnapur, a god-forsaken place until nearby Shirdi found its place on the religious map thanks to Saibaba, has now become the Mecca of Shani-worshippers. Women are barred from coming close to the rock deity, and they see this rock of inequality as an obstacle in their right to worship. Shani, ironically, is the lord of obstacles.
Traditionalists say it’s a bad omen for women to stand close to the lord as he may cast an evil eye on them. Trupti Desai and her Bhumata Brigade don’t believe in all that. She is spearheading a movement to defy the traditional bar on the entry of women to the Shani sanctum sanctorum.
In Mumbai, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan is fighting for women’s right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali dargah and touch the grave of Haji Ali as men do. There is a barricade that separates women from male devotees and limits their proximity to the saint they come to pray to.
With this, the question of gender inequality at places of worship has come to the fore and in our living rooms, thanks to the noisy nightly debates on TV where dubious babas and malleable maulanas mansplain just how centuries-old tradition of inequality before the lord cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the modern ideas of equality before law.
I stand with the babas and maulvis on this one, for reasons different than what they prescribe and what they proscribe. Why do women need this as a right? Why do they want to enter places that treat them as inferior and impure? This is the last thing women should be fighting for.
Dowry deaths, punishment rapes, pay disparity, female foeticide, literacy rates, imposition of purdah, subjugation of their legal rights, honour killings: the so-called fairer sex has not got its fair share from the society yet. Yet, the right to worship Shani has become the issue at the moment, in the 21st century. It is an issue, but not the issue. Not in a world where equality remains a far cry.
This fight for the right to worship is a faux fight. This demand for religious rights only reinforces the belief that religion matters. That religion matters is responsible for the systematic suppression of women in the society. All religions, all man-made of course, have done not much else but subjugate women by making them possessions of men.
The phrase religious equality itself is an oxymoron. That women are religious, often more deeply than their male counterparts, is evidence of the grip of the Stockholm Syndrome. Since men always cited the text to domesticate and own them, women have grown to take the text as supreme. So when they want to follow the light of emancipation, they quote from the same text to justify their demand for freedom.
After women cited selected religious texts that claim women are equal to men, men cited selected texts that don’t allow the same status to women.
Trupti Desai now wants the police to uphold the Constitution of India that guarantees them equality. The Constitution of India also wishes that her people developed a scientific temperament. That means calling a rock a rock. The nonsensical beliefs in dead men and pieces of stone, in stories from books written thousands of years ago to draw boundaries for women, cattle and shudras need to be consigned to the flames of knowledge and human rights, not embraced.
It’s time women stopped demanding newer shackles believing they will free them. Every time they demand a religious right, they acknowledge/dignify/justify religious beliefs, beliefs that have been the tools of oppression of women since the Stone Age.
If women truly seek equality and emancipation, they have to rise up against the tyranny of religions, not acknowledge, accommodate and embrace them as they have done for centuries. Not fight for the right to bow their heads in front of a rock after touching the feet of a priest (who is a priest simply because he was born male in a family of priests). Lying at the feet of the self-declared agents of divinity, who declare menstruating women impure. Do not count your blessings, for they aren’t.