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Religious discrimination against Women must end

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On Gudi Padwa, women enter Shani Shingnapur temple for the first time Image source: www.ibtimes.co.in

It’s a common trend that where social, political and religious systems fail, the judiciary steps in – as in the case of the entry of women to the Shani Shingnapur temple.

A centuries-old bastion of the patriarchal social construct was smashed to smithereens. The women activists from the Bhumata Brigade, led by Trupti Desai, were successful in entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani temple. Trupti hailed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open the gates of the sacred chabutra (platform) for men and women devotees, and said it was a prudent step on their part.

“Der aayad, durust aayad!” said a spirited Trupti and hoped the trustees at the Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur too would follow suit to treat women devotees at par with men.

One would congratulate Trupti for her stoic resistance as it was after her activism that TV debates were generated and many storms raised in teacups besides the national print media highlighting the issue.

Priyanka Jagtap, another member of the Bhumata Brigade, celebrated the court’s observation at the temple premises by distributing sweets. “It’s a big victory for all the womenfolk of Maharashtra and the country. It is an occasion to celebrate,” she said.

The main question that needs to be asked is whether this outburst of activism against ritualistic practices in Hindu temples is a legitimate effort to break the almost 400-year-old tradition.

What’s unfortunate is that most religions talk about gender equality, but it is either totally defunct or reduced to lip-service as totem. The question is whether it is the followers of Hinduism or Islam or any other religion,who vie with one another to deprive their women of equal rights.

The aim of these lines is to convey a message to the custodians of women’s rights – the men – to remind them of the cultural traditions that are mired in gender discrimination. In this context, whether it is Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali Baba or Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, all these famed religious places have banned the entry of women.

Politically, the BJP has been accused of vitiating the atmosphere in Sabarimala. However, it would be preposterous to suggest that all villagers in this temple town are BJP or right-wing activists. According to social commentator Sreemoy Talukdar, the patriarchal mores lie so deep that even women (and probably more so) were the first ones to take umbrage of the ‘breach’ which they fear will bring calamity on their families.

Talukdar feels that Kerala’s Sabarimala temple authorities have stuck to their stand – in the face of legal scrutiny from the Supreme Court of banning all women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering temple precincts citing ritualistic practices and traditions.

They claim Lord Ayyappa, who attracts more than 50 million devotees each year, is a sworn celibate. They do not want the apex court to interfere in religious practices.

In Mumbai’s Dargah Haji Ali Baba, it is really something totally inexplicable that women are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum in spite of the fact that Islam has granted equal rights to woman. During the days of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Muslim women used to go to the mosque to pray. However, after him, some myopic and orthodox Muslims asked women to stay at home.

Nevertheless, the larger question is about the general exploitation of women by men from all religions.

They are not given their rights and, at the slightest provocation, are maltreated, beaten, divorced and even murdered.

Trupti’s campaign – that of challenging the patriarchal hegemony over religion, its practices and ending stigmas against women – would only materialize truly if the activism continues. (IANS)

 

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Social Media Tends to Scrutinize Female Stars More Than Male Stars, Says Richa Chadha

Actress Richa Chadha, known for her opinions, says she has observed how, at times, mainstream and social media tend to scrutinise female stars more

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Although she was criticised by a section of the media in her initial days, she holds all her critics in high regard. Pixabay

Actress Richa Chadha, who is known to be vocal with her opinions, says she has observed how, at times, mainstream and social media tend to scrutinise female stars more than male stars. Although she was criticised by a section of the media in her initial days, she holds all her critics in high regard.

Richa told IANS: “Mainstream media as well as social media tends to be unfair towards female stars, and female stars get trolled and criticised more than their male counterparts. I can say this from my observation of the way media constantly questions Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Swara Bhaskar, Sonam Kapoor and other female stars for their choices – whether it is fashion, political opinion or lifestyle. Do they question the male stars enough as well?”

Citing examples of films that have released this year and earned commercial success, the “Fukrey” fame actress mentioned: “How many times has the media questioned male actors on films that are jingoistic and encourage warmongering? During the press conference of my film “Section 375″, I was asked about my opinion on the flood-affected areas. Do they ask these questions to the real people who actually can bring change – I mean the authorities and politicians?”

In “Section 375”, she plays the female lead and received a lot of positive reviews from the critics. However, in her initial days, she experienced both sides of media coverage but she learnt to handle everything gracefully.

On negative media coverage, Richa said: “I am very cordial with my critics because how they write about me is their prerogative. In my initial days, I have had press call me ugly. They called me names for my appearance in a film where I was not required to look glamorous. An article was written on me, titled ‘10 things that one hates about Richa Chadha’ by a publication. If a journalist tries to belittle me, I would rather grow a thick skin, instead of taking the negativity to my heart.”

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Instead of trial by media, it should be trial by law: Richa Chadha on #MeToo. Flickr

“There is a difference between critiquing and being mean to someone, and I know that,” she added.

Over the past few years, Richa has also been trolled – whether in 2016 for her comment on the commonality between herself and Pakistani actor Fawad Khan at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, or when random social media users called her names. However, she always gives the trollers back.

Richa is gearing up for “Panga” next year, and her gameplan is very much in place.

“I will be continuing experimenting with my work and I will be in a good space in the coming future, also because this is what the wisdom and experiment teach you. These days actors get encouraged to do experimental work but I have been doing it since my early days,” said the actress who portrayed a grandmother in the film “Gangs Of Wasseypur” when she was just 24 years old.

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Asked about where she gathers confidence from, Richa said: “There are women before me like Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, and Deepti Naval who have shown the courage of doing experimental films and of course they are inspirational for us.”

“Also, I am happy the way women are getting appreciation beyond their age. You know, when people say there is one Meryl Streep, I disagree, there are also Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, and Judi Dench, and everyone is nailing it in the films they do! Because age has nothing to do with performance,” she smiled. (IANS)