Woman’s identity not based on marital status: Madras HC on widow’s temple-entry plea

Woman’s identity not based on marital status: Madras HC on widow’s temple-entry plea

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The Madras High Court has said dogma like preventing entry of a widow into a temple cannot prevail in a civilised society governed by law and made it clear that a woman, by herself, has an identity.

It observed it is quite unfortunate that archaic beliefs like that of a widowed woman entering a temple causing impurity to the shrine continue to prevail in the state.

The plea

Justice N Anand Venkatesh made the observation in his order dated August 4 while disposing of a petition filed by Thangamani. She sought a direction to the police to provide protection to her and her son to enter the Periyakaruparayan temple at Nambiyur taluk in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district.

She wanted to participate in the two-day temple festival on August 9 and had given a representation in this connection last month.

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The case of the petitioner was that her deceased husband used to be the pujari (priest) of the said temple. During the ongoing Tamil Aadi month, the temple committee decided to conduct a festival on August 9 and 10.

The petitioner and her son wanted to participate in the festival and offer prayers. Two persons, namely Aiyavu and Murali, allegedly threatened her, saying she should not enter the temple since she was a widow.

Hence, she made a representation to the authorities seeking police protection, and since there was no response, she moved court.

Senseless beliefs

The judge said though reformers are attempting to break such senseless beliefs, it continues to be practised in some villages.

These are the dogmas and rules framed by man to suit his convenience, and these actually demean a woman just because she has lost her husband. All these can never continue in a civilised society, which is governed by rule of law, the court said.

If any such attempt is made by anyone to stop a widow from entering the temple, action must be taken against them in accordance with law, the judge added.

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The court said a woman, by herself, has a status and identity and that cannot in any way come down or be taken away depending upon her marital status. Therefore, Aiyavu and Murali do not have any right to stop the petitioner and her son from attending the festival and offering prayers, the judge added.

Direction to police

The court directed the Inspector of Police, Siruvalur Police Station, to inform Aiyavu and Murali that they cannot stop Thangamani and her son from entering the temple and attending the festival.

If they try to create a law-and-order problem, action shall be taken against them immediately. The Inspector of Police shall ensure that the petitioner and her son participate in the festival both on August 9 and 10, 2023, the judge added.

(With agency inputs)

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