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Kerala Government Decides to Revise The List of Women Who Prayed at Sabarimala

The list of 51 women is not part of an affidavit but only referred to by the state government counsel in his arguments. Soon the list was highlighted in the media

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Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Stung by widespread criticism over the numerous errors in the list of women who prayed at the Sabrimala temple, the Kerala government has decided to re-prepare the list.

A counsel of state government had presented the list in the Supreme Court on Friday, which reportedly had discrepancies in the age and names of women. The list was taken from the records of the online system, through which pilgrims register for having “darshan”.

The row erupted over flaws in the actual age of some of the 51 women, whom the counsel had referred to in the list as “banned” — on account of they being of menstruating age group of 10 to 50 years — who prayed at the temple this season.

State police chief Loknath Behera on Saturday asked senior officials to revise the list, which included even the name of men, besides several of the women above 50.

State Devasom (temples) Minister Kadakampally Surendran told the media that his department has no role in the preparation of the list, while the president of the Travancore Devasom Board – custodian of the temple, A. Padmakumar said they are not responsible for this as they do not prepare statistics of the pilgrims in the temple.

Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of the Communist Party of India – the second biggest ally of the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government, said the entire responsibility of what has happened lies with the state government.

Sabarimala
Kerala to revise list of women who prayed at Sabarimala.

But the Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the closest aide of Vijayan, defended him by saying that it is not just 51 women, but so many women have had “darshan” at the temple.

Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini, both in the “banned” age group of 10 to 50 years, prayed at the Sabarimala temple.

It was after they approached the apex court seeking security for having safe “darshan” that a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari directed the state government to arrange adequate protection for them.

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The list of 51 women is not part of an affidavit but only referred to by the state government counsel in his arguments. Soon the list was highlighted in the media.

“This goof-up reveals the abject failure of the way Vijayan is running the state,” said state BJP president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai.  (IANS)

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No More Segregation on the Basis of Gender in Restaurants in Saudi Arabia

Saudi restaurants no longer need to segregate women and men

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Saudi Arabia
Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, are currently segregated by “family” sections allocated for women. Lifetime Stock

Women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants in the latest measure announced by the government that upends a major hallmark of conservative restrictions that had been in place for decades.

The decision, which essentially erodes one of the most visible gender segregation restrictions in place, was quietly announced Sunday in a lengthy and technically worded statement by the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry.

While some restaurants and cafes in the coastal city of Jiddah and Riyadh’s upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely, the move codifies what has been a sensitive issue in the past among traditional Saudis who view gender segregation as a religious requirement. Despite that, neighboring Muslim countries do not have similar rules.

Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, are currently segregated by “family” sections allocated for women who are out on their own or who are accompanied by male relatives, and “singles” sections for just men. Many also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men. In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women are not allowed in.

Reflecting the sensitive nature of this most recent move, the decision to end requirements of segregation in restaurants was announced in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The statement listed a number of newly-approved technical requirements for buildings, schools, stores and sports centers, among others.

Saudi Sex Segregation
A woman leaves a ladies only service area at a restaurant in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. VOA

The statement noted that the long list of published decisions was aimed at attracting investments and creating greater business opportunities.

Among the regulations announced was “removing a requirement by restaurants to have an entrance for single men and (another) for families.”

Couched between a new regulation about the length of a building’s facade and allowing kitchens on upper floors to operate was another critical announcement stating that restaurants no longer need to “specify private spaces”— an apparent reference to partitions.

Across Saudi Arabia, the norm has been that unrelated men and women are not permitted to mix in public. Government-run schools and most public universities remain segregated, as are most Saudi weddings.

In recent years, however, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed for sweeping social reforms, with women and men now able to attend concerts and movie theaters that were once banned. He also curtailed the powers of the country’s religious police, who had been enforcers of conservative social norms, like gender segregation in public.

Two years ago, women for the first time were allowed to attend sports events in stadiums in the so-called “family” sections. Young girls in recent years have also been allowed access to physical education and sports in school, a right that only boys had been afforded.

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In August, the kingdom lifted a controversial ban on travel by allowing all citizens — women and men alike — to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement.

The new rules remove restrictions that had been in place, but do not state that restaurants or cafes have to end segregated entrances or seated areas. Many families in conservative swaths of the country, where women cover their hair and face in public, may prefer eating only at restaurants with segregated spaces. (VOA)