Protesters block traffic and shout slogans reacting to reports of two women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala temple, one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. India’s Supreme Court on Sept. 28, 2018 lifted the ban on women of menstruating age from entering the temple, holding that equality is supreme irrespective of age and gender. (AP Photo/R S Iyer)

2 women enter Hindu temple in India, breaking years-long ban

The Supreme Court lifted a ban in September on women worshipping at Sabarimala temple in Kerala state

Two women on Wednesday entered one of India’s largest Hindu pilgrimage sites that had been forbidden to females between the ages of 10 and 50, sparking protests across a southern state, with police firing tear gas at several places to disperse stone-throwing protesters, police said.

The Supreme Court lifted a ban in September on women worshipping at Sabarimala temple in Kerala state. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.

Despite the ruling, demonstrators including Hindu priests and conservatives continued to block women of menstruating age from entering the centuries-old temple.

The two women in their forties entered the temple early Wednesday and worshipped there, said Pramod Kumar, the state police spokesman. Officers escorted the two women to the hilltop temple because of “police responsibility to provide protection to any devotee irrespective of gender,” Kumar said.

Kerala’s top elected official, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, told reporters that under the Supreme Court order, police were bound to safeguard worshippers.

“Earlier, women were not able to enter the temple due to certain hurdles. They were able to enter the shrine today,” Vijayan said.

Protests broke out in several places in the state after the women entered the temple. Protesters blocked several roads and threw stones at law enforcement officials, sparking clashes, said Kumar, the police spokesman, adding that police fired tear gas to quell the violence.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Kumar said police were gearing up for more protests on Thursday because several political and Hindu groups have called for a general strike to protest the women’s entry. He said authorities would provide “all possible security” to businesses.

On Tuesday, millions of women formed a human chain more than 600 kilometres (375 miles) long from Kasargod in the northern part of the state to Thiruvananthapuram, the southernmost city and the state capital, to support gender equality.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), the ruling party in Kerala, said about 5.5 million women participated in the protest, called by the state government.

On Wednesday, hundreds of women in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, formed a human chain to express solidarity with the women in Kerala.

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban later this month in response to 49 petitions filed against it.

Opponents of the ruling say the celibacy of the temple’s presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India’s Constitution, and that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples. Some Hindus consider menstruating women to be impure.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Chilliwack mayor and MLA speaks at UFV

John Jansen makes presentation at Abbotsford campus on Tuesday, Jan. 21

Doxa Band performs at free worship event in Abbotsford

Program takes place Sunday, Jan. 26 at Central Heights Church

Alzheimer Society holds open house in Abbotsford

Event on Jan. 29 at Garden Park Tower is part of awareness month

Tougher burning rules considered by Abbotsford council

Staff suggest limiting open air burning to just two months

VIDEO: Highway 1 to look like winter war zone until owners retrieve wrecked vehicles

Tow-truck driver says 30 vehicles still dot snowy landscape, including one rolled-over dairy truck

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

VIDEO: SPCA and RCMP remove several animals, including pig, at private animal rescue in Langley

Home at 5500 block of 216th Street has undergone multiple seizures over the past five years

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Most Read