Monday, February 15, 2016

God hates menstruating women?

This recent post was about the pathological relationship that some have with women, and most of that pathology having to deal with religion.  Another post from three weeks ago was on a public policy issue relating to women--taxing tampons.  Put them together as a Venn diagram of sorts and you can see the possibility of religious institutions having practices that restrict menstruating women, right?

I have been trying to understand this issue for a long time.  It is a strange world that I had to understand as a young boy when my mother could not attend a wedding in the family.  She traveled with us all the way and then had to exclude herself from mixing with people.  It was the introduction to women's issues that were never talked about but were always there.  If not for the biology class that described the ovary, Fallopian tubes, and the uterus, and why bleeding happens, the whole thing would have been a bloody mystery to me.  (Yes, the horrible pun intended; hehehe!)  It is darn stupid to exclude girls and women from regular life just because they menstruate.

Now consider a temple setting.  A Hindu temple, like any place of religious worship, is not a place for reason.  It is about faith, and like all religious faiths, well, it is irrational.  In such a faith context, bleeding women are typically not allowed to go anywhere near the pooja (worship) room at homes and, of course, the temples too.

I have no quarrels over how people want to practice their faiths.  It is up to the believers to think about how awful their faith-based everyday life can be, like with banning menstruating believing women from the zone.

So, if some of the faithful think it is not kosher to ban the menstruating women from temples, what options do they have to correct the injustice as they perceive it?

In India, that's what apparently led a few to approach the court--in the context of the Sabarimala temple ban on females between 10 and 50 years of age.  Why the court, you might wonder.  Because,  unlike here in the US, India's temples have government oversight.
The ban was enforced under Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 (women at such time during which they are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship).
So, if the government oversees the functioning of temples, then, of course, the judicial arm of the government has a say in whether menstruating women should be barred from entering temples.
A Special Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing the Sabarimala temple entry issue, will consider the intervention application. The students want the apex court to address and decide on whether modern society should continue to bear with “menstrual discrimination” when the Indian Constitution mandates right to equality and health of women to achieve gender justice.
As you read this, perhaps you think, "wait a second, this is bizarre."  But, bizarre is in the eye of the faithful.  Barring menstruating women from temples is not bizarre to many believers (including women), just as wrapping up women in burqas is not bizarre to another group of the faithful.  Many churches in old Europe do not allow female tourists in skirts or without a scarf over their heads--bizarre faith-based practice.  What is bizarre to one is apparently holy to another!

Why only the Sabarimala temple?  The "Happy to Bleed" campaign began after this:
"A time will come when people will ask if all women should be disallowed from entering the temple throughout the year," Prayar Gopalakrishnan, who recently took charge of the hilltop temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, told reporters earlier this month.
"These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the 'right time' for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside," he added. 
Ah yes, surely science and technology can deliver such a gadget--there are plenty of smart Indians, women too, who can work on it ;)

Back to the high court in India:
At a preliminary hearing on Friday, Justice Misra had asked whether the Vedas, Upanishads and scriptures discriminate between men and women. “Is spirituality solely within the domain of men? Are you saying that women are incapable of attaining spirituality within the domain of religion? Can you deprive a mother?” Justice Misra had asked.
Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to, therefore, conjecture that women cannot be priests at temples, right?  That controversy will be for another day! All this atheist can do is observe such happenings and comment on this mad, mad, mad religious world ;)



Anne in Salem said...

In my reading, I have not come across this ban. Is it common? It seems counterproductive to the increase of faith to ban women for more than half of their lives. I have read of many temples that do not allow non-Hindus on certain days or at certain times, restrictions I understand. Clearly I have much to learn.

God loves menstruating women. Without us, there would be no men to make the incomprehensible rules in all faiths and governments.

Mike Hoth said...

I asked my currently menstruating wife if your pun hurt more or less than her bodily function. She told me it was a tie.

Menstruation is one of those things that is notably different about one group of people that, historically, has not been very powerful. Many rules we see as strange or outdated in these days of equality (or at least, attempts at it) are based on those differences. It's why women can't go topless in public despite the fact that more adults have breasts under their shirts than don't. It's why the "brown people", who you have mentioned before as receiving unfair treatment even when they are the majority, have been abused as well.

Sriram Khé said...

The Hindu temples are highly restrictive in many ways. Historically, the upper castes barred the untouchables from entering the temple ... even now, at most temples, only a chosen few can get anywhere near the inner sanctum.
The rules against the females, because of "Aunt Flo", is not unique to India and Hindus though ... Traditional, orthodox, Jewish practices include rituals for women to re-enter the household life ... but, hey, to the faithful, all these are part of the faith itself--so, of course, women--at least most of them--willingly cooperate/practice ...
What makes this Indian/Hindu temple case all the more interesting as a public policy issue is that unlike here in the US, Indian government can legally interfere with a temple's rules.
Yes, it is all in a long line of power and privilege being played out ...

Ramesh said...

This is a completely stupid custom that simply should be abolished. Its surprisingly a problem largely in Kerala, Most other states have moved on, but the dinosaur clergy in Kerala have remained rooted in medieval times. I thought they had banned women outright in Sabarimala.

Sriram Khé said...

"dinosaur" is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Will be interesting to see what becomes of this court case ...

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