Two women in the southern Indian state of Kerala made history Wednesday, defying religious conservatives to enter the Sabarimala Temple, one of Hinduism’s holiest sites.The pair, aged 42 and 44, became the first women to access the shrine after the country’s Supreme Court overturned a centuries-old ban preventing women aged 10 to 50 from entering the temple in September last year, ruling it to be discriminatory and arguing that women should be able to pray at the place of their choice.
The two women made the long, uphill trek to the famous golden-roofed temple accompanied by plainclothes police officers, arriving at the site at approximately 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, Kerala police told CNN.
For months, Kerala has been the scene of angry protests objecting to the court’s decision. Police clamped down after the ruling, deploying a 1,300-strong contingent of officers to ensure the safety of any women wishing to visit the temple, but the force appeared insufficient in the face of overwhelming hostility from thousands of Hindu traditionalists.
The Supreme Court is scheduled later this month to hear petitions to revise its order.On Tuesday, female protestors, reported to be in the millions, came out in support of women being allowed to enter the temple.Dubbed the “women’s wall,” the protesters formed a human chain, extending an estimated 620 kilometers (385 miles). Local government organizers said more than five million people took part in the 15-minute peaceful protest.”
There were so many women and there wasn’t even space for women to extend arms. If they had extended their arms, the length of the wall would have increased so much that women would be falling in the Arabian Sea,” said Subhashini Ali, a member of the Indian Communist Party that governs Kerala and a participant in the protest.
Ali, who is also vice president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said women coming out to fight for their rights in Kerala will “change the conversation around gender.””There are many many forms of discrimination which are done in the name of tradition,” she said. “It is an issue important for women and democracy. “Photos from the protests showed Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, and Health Minister KK Shylaja in attendance. Thousands of women could be seen raising hands and fists while forming the wall.