Sabarimala women's entry debate: ReadytoWait campaign renewed

Videos of women devotees stating that they were willing to wait till 55 before entering the temple surfaced on the campaign’s FB page.
Sabarimala women's entry debate: ReadytoWait campaign renewed
Sabarimala women's entry debate: ReadytoWait campaign renewed
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Ahead of Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing on lifting the age-old ban on women entering the Sabarimala temple, the #ReadyToWait campaign started by Malayali women devotees has re-surfaced all over social media.

The campaign, which trended two years ago, in August 2016, saw thousands of women state that they did not want the ban on women to be lifted. They said that they were willing to wait until 55 to enter the shrine, thereby respecting the traditional customs of the temple.

The campaign, like every other campaign, slowly died down. However, the past week has seen a conscious revival of #ReadyToWait with several videos being posted on its Facebook page.

This re-sparking of the campaign has come just days ahead of the hearing on the lifting of the ban, set to take place on Tuesday by the 5-judge Constitution Bench of the SC.

On Sunday, several videos of women saying that they were perfectly okay to wait till 55 years were posted on the ReadyToWait campaign’s Facebook page named 'We Support Ready to Wait'.

“I have visited the shrine 3 times when I was a child. Now I will only go after I complete 50 years,” said a devotee in one of the videos.

Another video posted on the campaign page on Sunday shows an elderly lady who says, “Devout Ayyappa worshippers want the traditions that has been practised all this while to continue. Allowing young women into the shrine is disliked by everyone.”

The efforts to re-ignite the campaign seem to be aimed at strengthening the case against lifting of the ban with regard to the hearing coming up on Tuesday. The campaign’s organisers – a Chennai-based women’s group called 'People for Dharma' – had filed a petition in 2016 to implead into the case.

People for Dharma was registered in October 2016, a few months after the overwhelming response to the #ReadyToWait campaign. The group rooted for following and respecting the traditional customs of the temple. According the legend, Lord Ayyappa – the main deity of Sabarimala – remained an eternal Brahmachari or celibate, and therefore, women were not encouraged to visit the shrine that is located in Pathanamthitta, Kerala.

In their petition to intervene in the case, the group pointed out that the unique customs of the Tatra Shastra should be respected. The co-founder of the group, Shila Nair, also said that it was not a ban but a mere restriction of women in the 10 – 50 age group.

However, a few months ago, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which takes care of the temple’s affairs, made ID proof compulsory for women devotees wanting to pray at the temple.

The case asking for the lifting of the ban on women into the temple was filed in 2006 by an organisation called Young Lawyers Association. The Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board are also part of the case.

Taking up the case last week, the 5-judge Constitution Bench of the SC, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and senior judges, in a landmark observation said that the banning of women from the temple was against the constitutional mandate.

“Your (intervener) right to pray being a woman is equal to that of a man and it is not dependent on a law to enable you to do that,” the bench observed. The Kerala government too made it clear that it supported the right of women to enter the shrine and pray.

The case is set to be heard again on Tuesday, July 24.

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