Why is Smriti Irani's Statement on Sabarimala Problematic?
Union minister Smriti Irani sparked controversy when she said everyone has the right to pray but not to discrete amid a debate over the ban on women of menstrual age entering Kerala's famous Sabarimala Temple and a Supreme Court order overturning it.
"I am nobody to speak of the Supreme Court verdict because I am a current serving cabinet minister... I believe I have the right to pray but I don't have the right to desecrate. And that is the difference that we need to recognize and respect,"- an excerpt from her speech at an event of the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai.
Her comment invited criticisms from across all the spheres of society. Even the social media didn't keep quiet as the new media took charge to slam the union textile minister. Her clarification stuck to her personal experience at not being allowed to enter a Parsi temple, a faith followed by the Zoroastrian husband and kids. She further goes on to clarify that she respects the stand by the Zoroastrian community or priest and do not approach any court for a right to pray as a mother of two Zoroastrian children.
But, the whole issue is about the usage of the word 'desecration' by citing an example of someone carrying used sanitary napkins to a place of worship. It isn't quite clear whether her reference differentiated between menstruating women wanting to enter a temple or the act of carrying a used sanitary napkin to a place of worship. Apparently, the second case can only be attributed to an act of defiance or rebellion to prove a point.
In an attempt to further justify what Smriti Irani has said, unverified reports claiming activists trying to enter the Sabarimala had carried sanitary pads along with them were published by some rightwing websites. Even though the unverified news of Rahana Fathima, a women rights activist, carrying blood-soaked sanitary napkin while walking up to the Sabarimala Temple, a simple Google search will burst your myth as there were absolutely no credible news reports about the incident. Then what discretion Smriti Irani is really talking about?
Whatsoever the reference was, it is unacceptable from a woman who holds a high office in the current government as it not only disrespects women, and it also leaves a feeling of disgust in the minds of people about menstruation, which is a natural process. Rather than shackling, it should be each woman’s choice to exercise her right to pray.
As a cabinet minister and more than that, as a woman whose voice matters, a strong condemnation of the hooliganism that is playing out in the name of religion, even after the Supreme Court has allowed women of all ages to enter the temple is what the country expects. Obviously, not the other way around.