Why do people protest? Last year, teachers across the United States went on strike to protest low pay and poor classroom conditions. In Armenia, people poured into the streets to protest former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s decision to appoint himself the prime minister; he stepped down eleven days later. In Spain, Catalonians protested Spain’s rejection of their vote to secede. Protests are meant to create awareness and to showcase a desire for change by a large group of people. On January 1st, millions of women (and some men too!) formed a 385-mile human chain down the western coast of India as a way of showing their support of women’s rights and gender equality. Impressive, we know! But what sparked this human display of power in the first place? A temple.
Last September, India’s Supreme Court overruled a ban that prevented women of “menstruating age” (or what’s being defined as women between the ages of ten and fifty) from entering the Sabarimala temple—a temple that was built to worship the Hindu deity Ayyappa. After the ruling, women attempted to enter the temple but were blocked by people who strongly believed that women should not be allowed to enter the temple (Supreme Court ruling or not!). Why? Because strict Hindu beliefs and the wishes of Ayyappa forbid entry.
While the human chain was a way for women to show their power and support for equality, their fight for equality is far from over. In fact, when it was discovered that two women entered the temple unnoticed with plain-clothed police only a day after the chain was formed, violence and protests erupted throughout the Indian state of Kerala where the Sabarimala temple is located. But why all the violence? Well, people have strong opinions about women’s rights, religion, and politics. Are women’s rights more important than religious beliefs or vice versa? Are the laws of a government more powerful than the rules of religion? Should a democratic government have the right to make decisions for religious organizations? There are no simple answers to any of these questions.
What do you think?