By Aditya Aamir
On the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) index, a Niti Ayog report ranks Kerala top of the heap, along with Sikkim, on gender-equality – scoring 69 out of 100. Does this mean Kerala can beat Sikkim to second place if women of all age are allowed into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple? The answer is there is no comparison: Sikkim has mountains and snow, but it does not have a temple such as the Sabarimala Ayyappa to kick up a gender-row.
Right to worship at any and every shrine is not a SDG nor a requirement for gender-equality. Also, Malayali women do not consider Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple entry a factor contributing to gender equality. There is no blanket ban on women’s entry. There is only an age restriction, which is accepted by women devotees of Swami Ayyappa.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should focus on the SDG goals for women and girls. The Niti Ayog report ranks states according to action taken on the sustainable development goals. A score of 100 means the state is an “achiever”. A score of 65-99 is a “frontrunner”; 50-64 is a “performer” and 0-49 an “aspirant”.
Kerala, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar and Chandigarh are the only “frontrunners” and “performers” on gender equality. The other states are “aspirants.” What stands out is not one state/UT is even a “global” aspirant. The overall average score of all states and Union Territories is 36 out of 100.
There are other indicators of gender-equality. Availability of affordable clean-cooking fuel is one. Women cook more at home than men. Clean energy to cook food is a must for gender-inequality. Kerala is not a “performer” on this indicator.
Still other indicators include domestic spousal violence, male-female sex ratio; participation in workforce and pay-salary parity. Except in sex-ratio, Kerala is not a “performer” on any of these either. One in three Malayali women continues to face spousal violence. Kerala women in the workforce earn on an average 30% less than their male counterparts in the same work.
On sex-ratio, Kerala scores 959, second only to Chhattisgarh (963). In terms of maternity benefits, too, Kerala is not top of the heap. Odisha takes that honour. There are lots of pregnant Malayali women who need nutrients. It, however, does well in maternal mortality – 46 maternal mortality against 100,000 live births. The India average is 130.
Point is Pinarayi Vijayan is expending energy and time, his and that of the people, on achieving an anti-communist goal: the right to worship. Linking Sabarimala Ayyappa temple to gender-inequality is the doing of outsiders who do not have a clue to the Ayyappa cult. These outsiders took the perceived gender-inequality to court and got a favourable verdict. And because it is a constitutional bench ruling on a fundamental right, Pinarayi jumped in and politics tightened screws.
Didn’t matter if it’s against the deeply ingrained faith/sentiments of the majority. Doesn’t matter if fundamental rights are devoid of faith. Didn’t matter if the women who took Sabarimala to court are gender-equality warriors, not Ayyappa devotees. The distinction is crucial: Ayyappa devotees honour the unique status of Swami Ayyappa. Gender-equality champions see only “conquest”, “victory” and “milestone.”
Pinarayi should focus on improving the state’s SDG scores on the other gender-equality indicators. Vijayan should get off his high horse and forget the right to worship of atheist women activists, who aim for the destruction of the “unique.” They see in the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple the “whole”, not the standout particulars.
They are self-proclaimed atheists and activists. Not different from godless heathens and capital communists, for whom the death penalty is solution to every departure. Pinarayi’s communism is a religion much like Christianity and Islam, both of which “make the choice” for adherents. The Hindu Way of Life “leaves the choice” to the conscience of individuals.
The Supreme Court inadvertently set up Kerala for turmoil and the Pinarayi Vijayan regime took advantage. Since then, it’s government versus people. People were arrested for chanting prayers and the protests spread beyond the Sabarimala hills to places across the length and breadth of the state.
The state government is bent on transforming the Sabarimala Ayyappa shrine into a generic temple. By hook or crook, subterfuge and con. January 10, the regime wrote to the Centre that over 11,000 people have been charged with indulging in “violence. Those charged were indexed, photographed and barred from Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.
Pinarayi Vijayan calls this ‘Navothana’ or renaissance. But gender equality does not mean women should do everything men are designed to do. The “match-male” in every respect is mission impossible. Men and women have different architecture. The architect has seen to that and He cannot be faulted.
Gender equality doesn’t translate to invading every male space. Leaving women’s space to women and men’s to men is gender equality. Bulldozing into the other’s domain dents GE. It is not like Occupy Wall Street or Reclaim the Night. Some male spaces have to be left alone to men. And vice versa.
Women ‘ready to wait’ exemplify gender-justice. Gender justice, not gender-equality, should be the goal. Gender justice means giving women equal breaks in jobs and salaries. Equal status at home. It doesn’t mean bulldozing into the other’s space. A temple is not a John to squat/sit and be done with it! (IPA Service)