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Why We’re Not #ReadyToWait: Sabarimala IS a ‘Gender Issue’

The Quint’s open letter to Anjali George, addressing why her campaign is damaging to the feminist cause.

Updated
Women
3 min read
Not seen in the throng: women between ten and fifty-five years of age. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

Dear Anjali George,

As a “godless” feminist who is much too insignificant for the “West” to even consider funding, I have beef with you. You insist that Sabarimala is not a gender issue and that you’re #ReadyToWait. I believe I speak on behalf of all feminists when I say that while we’re thrilled that you’re willing to wait, the issue of not allowing women of a certain age entry into a place of worship is most certainly a gender issue.

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You may be #ReadyToWait, but is everyone? And why should they be? (Photo Courtesy: Facebook)
You may be #ReadyToWait, but is everyone? And why should they be? (Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

The Bombay High Court has allowed women to enter the Haji Ali dargah, but from what I understand (and forgive me, my knowledge of all things legal is lacking somewhat), nobody is going to insist at gunpoint that women visit the dargah. If she chooses not to, for reasons that may or may not be religious, she is welcome not to. As a citizen of the country, the Constitution of India grants her the freedom to make that choice.

If the courts allow women between the ages of 10 and 55 to enter Sabarimala, this “insensitive atheist” will rejoice. Not because I want to disrespect your customs; far from it. I will rejoice on behalf of the women who wish to exercise their freedom of religion and worship at Sabarimala. Also, if you will forgive my bluntness, what’s it to you? The law won’t stop you from waiting until you’re 55. By all means, wait.

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In India, our religious identity is inextricable from our social identity. As a result, a revolution in our religious practices can instigate social revolution. Before you smite me for daring to suggest that we review the “customs of the native civilisation,” let me humbly inform you that you cannot afford to believe that our religious customs are beyond reproach. We discriminate against menstruating women; we teach them to believe that they are ‘impure.’ We celebrate the ‘coming of age’ of girls as young as ten who have reached menarche. For aeons, menstruation has been the singular evidence of our womanhood, and we are taught to despise it.

If Sabarimala allows women between 10 and 55 to enter the shrine, we will finally have begun to normalise menstruation. If religion accepts that women’s bodies bleed and that there’s nothing demonic about it, it will change how people think. And in a world where women are constantly made to feel guilty about their bodies, we need to change how people think.

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Women will not be ‘made’ to enter Haji Ali; they are free to choose not to go. (Photo: Reuters)
Women will not be ‘made’ to enter Haji Ali; they are free to choose not to go. (Photo: Reuters)

Anjali George, your #ReadyToWait campaign is a validation of patriarchal religious practices, and that is what we “godless” feminists/commies have a problem with. Our beliefs must evolve with us, regardless of whether they are secular or religious. Remember, in a different historical context, these very arguments were used to justify Sati, because they essentially boil down to: who are you to question our religion and our customs?

Your campaign impinges upon women’s constitutional rights. Your campaign normalises the ostracisation of menstruating women. Are you willing to defend the consequences of that?

Yours in consternation,
A Godless Feminist

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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