01/27/2016, 13.06
INDIA
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Indian women marching to temple to demand the “right to pray” stopped

Police in Maharashtra stopped a peaceful protest by about a thousand women demanding the right to enter the Hindu Shani Shingnapur temple. Because they are "impure" according to Hindu tradition, they cannot enter places of worship. Social media back women. In Kerala, a guru calls for a machine to detect women’s fertility.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than a thousand women have been detained by police in the Indian state of Maharashtra when they tried to walk to the Shani Shingnapur Ahmadnagar temple.

Claiming the "right to pray" at the site, protesters rallied against the Hindu tradition that bans their presence from the temple. However, the authorities stopped them some 70 kilometres from the city.

Reports say about 600 police were deployed in the area. The women were also denied permission to use a helicopter.

The Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (Women warriors of Mother Earth) organised the protest. "We are determined to end the distasteful practice on Republic Day," the group’s Trupti Desai told one Indian newspaper.

Hindu women are not allowed in Hindu temples because they are considered "impure". In recent weeks, their campaign has gathered traction in Indian media and on social media, with many people using the hashtags #RightToWorship and #RightToPray to express support for the women. One wrote, “Impurities comes from mind God accept every one Religious tradition are invented by humans (sic)”.

The Shani Shingnapur temple is not only one to ban women. For several months, women in Kerala have been protesting against the ban in place at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. In this case, as the issue escalated, the Supreme Court of the State intervened.

For the temple's chief priest Thazhamon Madom Kandararu Rajeevaru, "The chief deity in the temple is a celibate. So allowing women to worship in the shrine is a sin".

"The Board will implead in the case to protect the interests of the devotees," said Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the temple's board. "The divinity of the shrine comes from this custom. That will be protected at any cost."

The priest drew criticism when he suggested using a machine to investigate women’s “purity”. Otherwise, every potentially fertile female aged between 10 and 50 years would be banned.

Social media responded swiftly with users calling for respect for women’s right to worship.

The dispute has taken a dangerous turn when Naushad Ahmed Khan, the lawyer pleading the case for women in the Sabarimala temple before the Supreme Court, said more than 700 threatening calls telling him to drop the case.

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