Sabarimala: Temple Politics and Temple Regulation
This panel explores the legal and political processes surrounding the Supreme Court verdict that allows all female devotees entrance to the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. Panelists are invited to place the case in the field of temple administration, temple regulation, and religious policy formulation.
· Stig Toft Madsen NIAS, University of Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark)
In September 2018 the Supreme Court of India quashed the ban that had denied female devotees of menstrual age entrance to the Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa Temple in Kerala. This panel explores the legal and political processes surrounding the Supreme Court verdict. It calls for analyses of the verdict itself. How did the plurality of judges argue in support of gender equality and against discrimination based on menstrual uncleanliness or untouchability? How did the dissenting judge argue in favor of legal protection for religious practices that some may consider unreasonable but which are nevertheless part of Hindu ritual? The activist role evinced by the Supreme Court in this case may be examined in the context of the shifting balance of power between parliaments and courts. What does such judicialization of politics mean in a country that simultaneously professes a policy of Hindutva? The panel also invites analyses of the interactions between local, state and out-of-state actors who politicized and dramatized the issue. What were the interests of political parties supporting or opposing the verdict? How did political and religious actors renegotiate their position to reach an agreement? The Sabarimala case may exemplify a conflict between the right to religious self-determination and the right to gender equality. This clash is not limited to Hinduism. Thus, the Sabarimala verdict has been linked to demands of Muslim women for the right to pray in Sunni mosques. Panelists may choose to consider such ramifications. In short, the panel invites panelists to place the Sabarimala case in the field of temple administration, temple regulation, and religious policy formulation.