Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Cameraperson: Sumit Badola
Dear Smriti Irani, your comment on Sabarimala hurts me as a woman and here’s why.
Amid protests against the Supreme Court order opening the Sabarimala temple in Kerala to women of all ages, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday, 23 October, said the right to pray did not mean the right to desecrate.
Speaking at the Young Thinkers’ Conference organised by British High Commission and the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, Irani said:
"“It is plain common sense. Would you take sanitary napkins seeped in menstrual blood into a friend’s home? You would not. And would you think it is respectful to do the same thing when you walk into the house of God? So that is the difference. I have a right to pray, I have no right to desecrate. That’s my personal opinion.”" - Smriti Irani, Textile Minister
While her remarks snowballed into a controversy on social media where she defended her stance in a series of tweets, here are all the reasons why I felt her comments were insensitive and regressive.
My Period is NOT Your Problem
Yes, I bleed, and my blood does not offend my God or my friends. I wear my “blood-soaked” sanitary napkin when I go to my friend’s house. And to my office. And to my school.
And they do not force me to leave. Instead, they offer to make the environment conducive to my well-being – something that “houses of God" might consider.
More importantly, I don’t need permission to exercise a right I have been given by my country's Constitution.
Where Was The Desecration?
Even if we believe what the cabinet minister said was in the context of rumours about activist Rehana Fathima carrying a blood-soaked sanitary napkin while walking up to the Sabarimala temple, a simple Google search will tell you that there were absolutely no credible news reports about the incident happening.
In fact, while speaking to The Quint, Rehana had categorically denied the allegations and had said the police had checked her irumudi – that is her prayer offerings – after she was forced to return from the gates of Sabarimala temple by the protesters. They found no bloody sanitary napkins on her.
So, as a cabinet minister, even as a responsible citizen, Smriti Irani could have well avoided an attempt to confirm and spread a rumour on a public forum.
It Should be Each Woman’s Choice to Exercise Her Right to Pray
In a series of tweets posted on 23 October, Irani had said that she respected the fire temple which denied her entry and allowed her two Zoroastrian sons and husband to enter.
I respect that stand by the Zoroastrian community / priests and do not approach any court for a right to pray as a mother of 2 Zoroastrian children. Similarly Parsi or non Parsi menstruating women irrespective of age DO NOT go to a Fire Temple.— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 23, 2018
She said she would not approach any court for a right to pray. I respect her choice and similarly I believe every woman should be free to make the choice on whether to enter Sabarimala and exercise her basic right to pray... or not!
Wish Smriti Irani Had Condemned the Violence
As a cabinet minister, and more than that, as a woman whose voice matters, I expected a strong condemnation of the hooliganism that is playing out in the name of religion, even after the Supreme Court has allowed women of all ages to enter the temple.
Hence, I repeat, my blood is nobody’s problem. Neither yours, nor my friends’, nor my God’s.
. Read more on India by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsDear Smriti Irani, Your Sabarimala Remark Hurts Me as a Woman . Read more on India by The Quint.