MICHAEL VAZ, MERCES
In schools, while studying European history we have embarked on ‘The Renaissance’, a period from 14th to 17 centuries that marked the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. We have cherished how man’s relentless struggle of freeing himself from anarchy, monarchy and theocracy paved way for a democratic rule. Looking at the turn of events during the last couple of days and wondering with awe at the resolve of women fighting for justice as regard to gender equality at the hilltop Sabarimala shrine in Kerala, it looks that a new stage is set for a second renaissance in the highly patriarchal Indian society, which has only believed in suppressing the rights of women, taking solace under out-dated religious creeds. On the New Year Day, in a new world record, 35 lakh women across 14 districts of Kerala formed a 620-km long human wall to demand gender equality and ensure that women of all age groups have the right to enter the shrine as envisioned in the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which had set aside the tradition that was maintained hitherto that women in the menstrual age group be barred from entering the temple under the archaic and patriarchal belief that the deity housed therein was eternally celibate. As if that was not enough, the very next day two women in their 40s defied the barriers from the right wing activists and entered the said shrine under police protection and offered their homage to the deity as per their wishes thereby for the first time breaking the taboos set therein. The simple lesson for one and all is to ever move forward with the ‘never say die spirit’ once you are convinced that what you are fighting for is just. In this backdrop, it is fitting to state that whereas so many valiant women have dared to confront the man-made rules to fight for equality, there are other women who have in the past even protested against their own entry just clinging to the tradition. Equally, painful is the fact that the lone dissent in the Supreme Court ruling came from the woman judge, who wanted religious traditions not to be interfered with. That unveils the mindset of the people – some wanting to surge forward trashing the ridiculous beliefs and others only taking solace in being subdued under the existing norms, little realising that all the customs and traditions have been regulated by men only to overwhelm the women for eternity.