Entry of women into Sabarimala, mosques and FGM — SC to consider ‘common policy’ for religious places

The Supreme Court of India (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

The Supreme Court Thursday said it should evolve a "common policy" for religious places, as it referred to a larger Bench a batch of review petitions challenging its 2018 verdict on the entry of women into Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said the restriction of women in religious places was not restricted to Sabarimala and was prevalent in other religions as well.

The apex court said the larger Bench would consider the entry of women into mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation, prevalent among the Dawoodi Bohras.

Entry of women into mosques

The most recent petition in the SC, seeking entry of Muslim women in mosques across the country, was deferred last week by a three-judge Constitution bench headed by CJI-designate Justice S A Bobde. The bench, which also comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari, said it was adjourned for a "different reason".

The PIL, filed by a Pune-based couple, had been admitted in Court only because of the September 2018 Sabarimala judgment. The petitioners said restrictions were "unconstitutional” and violated fundamental rights to life, equality and gender justice.

The Court has already sought responses from the Maharashtra State Board of Wakf, Central Wakf Council and All India Muslim Personal Law Board on the petition.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is the practice of complete or partial removal of female external genitalia, This is performed in an attempt to keep sexual desires under control. FGM is practiced in parts of Asia and Africa, including among the Bohra community — not just Dawoodi Bohras but other sects too — in India.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises four kinds of FGM, of which two are practiced in India — the partial or total removal of the clitoris; other harmful procedures such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. It is also known as khatna. According to WHO, over 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

A petition in the Supreme Court last year called for a ban on the practice as it amounts to violation of a woman’s right to life and dignity. The plea had been referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench on September 25, 2018.