mid-day editorial: For shame, Shankaracharya!

Just days after the Shani Shingnapur temple finally allowed women into its inner sanctum, Shankaracharya Swaroopanand has weighed in with what has to be the most ridiculous reaction to this historic event. He said that allowing women into a shrine devoted to Lord Shani (Saturn) will increase rapes.

The Shankaracharya’s comment ranks right up there with the most sexist bilge that has been thrown at women, by leaders of all persuasions, from politicians to activists and, of course, religious leaders too. The 94-year-old buttressed his statement by adding that with Shani’s eyes would now fall on women worshipping him and this would result in increase of rapes. And yet, the number of reported rape cases in India has been rising steadily over the past decade, even though Shani’s eyes have been ‘averted’ from women who did not have access to the sanctum sanctorum. Maybe, the Shankaracharya can explain this.

Then, there is another statement from him which states that instead of exulting about gaining entry into the sanctum sanctorum, women should do something to stop men from consuming intoxicating substances under whose influence they commit crimes against women, like rape. This is the most warped statement one may hear in a long time, but it has its roots in the despicable attitude that ultimately, women should somehow take responsibility to stop men from committing rapes. It is only a little deviation from the disgusting but often repeated argument that somehow, the woman may have invited the rape — whether by her clothing or by her willingness to drink alcohol, or by accompanying a male friend outside, or commuting late at night. Somehow, the onus is on the woman to stop rape.

These are unbelievably vile statements and must be slammed hard by all, including the all-important National Women’s Commission. This is not one of those statements that can simply be brushed aside. The only fitting response is to slam him and shame him.

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