Women in India made it clear they want change and equality by bringing in the new year with a 385 mile wall protesting gender inequality and the recent ban of menstruating aged women from entering the Sabarimala shrine. On the afternoon of January 1st, 2019, between 3.5 and 5 million Indian women joined hands and lined up along the country’s western coast to protest gender inequality. This demonstration was the largest gathering of women ever documented in India to protest gender inequality.
Two days following this massive protest, two very brave women in Southern India entered an ancient Hindu shrine in hopes to push for this movement, breaking the years long ban on females aged 10-50 in temples. These women were also protesting the religious ban that was implemented last year in September that prevents women at menstruating age from entering one of the country’s sacred Hindu temples, the Sabarimala shrine. However, there are many other temples in India that do not allow women to enter because of the belief that women of menstruating age could contaminate the temple.
Several dozen women have attempted to enter the temple following this ban but were stopped by the thousands of protesters that blocked the temple’s entrance. Following news that the two women had successfully entered, protesters erupted by shouting slogans and throwing stones, the temple was shut down for “purification rituals”, and 745 people were arrested by state police.
According to protesters, there was large turnout of men that also participated, which displays the country’s gradual awakening to a gender inequality. It is believable that these protests are also being powered and jolted forward by the #MeToo movement, where dozens of women in Indian cities shared traumatic stories on sexual assault, and harassment by public figures and government officials. In what is said to be the world’s most dangerous country for women, it is no surprise that Indian women are still fighting vigorously for gender equality.
The Supreme Court will hear a petition that challenges the Sabarimala Temple’s ruling on January 22, 2019. This hearing could be progressive as in 2016, women were granted permission to enter the famous Muslim shrine in Mumbai after the court’s ruled in favour of a petition by a woman’s rights group. Until then, women are still continuing to attempt to enter the temple and fight for their rights and gender equality in India will be not occur overnight, but will take more years and advocacy to ensure these women are treated equal in not just religious practices but in all areas of life.