Smriti Irani’s soaked Sanitary Pad comment, though taken out of context, raises some important questions.
Day before yesterday, at an event in Mumbai called the Young Thinkers’ Conference, the Union Minister for Textile Smriti Irani in the middle of a debate over the ban on women of menstrual age entering Kerala’s Sabarimala shrine and a Supreme Court order quashing it, said, and we quote,
“I am nobody to speak of the Supreme Court verdict because I am a current serving cabinet minister… I believe I have the right to pray but I don’t have the right to desecrate, And that is the difference that we need to recognize and respect,…
“…just plain common sense. Would you take sanitary napkins steeped in menstrual blood and walk into a friend’s home? You could not. And would you think it is respectable to do the same thing when you are walking into the house of god?”
Please don’t make any opinion right now. Keep reading.
After making the above remark, Ms. Smriti Irani went at lengths as to how even Zoroastrian temples, the religion she is married into imposes Hindu temples like restrictions for menstruating women; and she respects that. The nature of these remarks are preachy in nature; and give an impression that she wants others to respect that as well.
The news was later found to be ONLY Partially correct.
The news was partially correct because it was presented to give an impression that the minister compared a menstruating woman visiting a temple with she visiting a friend’s home. Although she did say the words quoted above and also went at lengths as to how Zoroastrian temples impose similar restrictions on menstruating women (that too in a preachy manner), she said them in a different context.
In the Conference, some attendee informed her about some woman activist who tried to enter the Sabrimala temple, with a blood soaked sanitary napkin on her head; and the attendee asked the minister’s view on the incident. In her response, Smriti Irani gave all the above reasoning.
Later it was found that although Ms. Smriti Irani’s soaked Sanitary Pad Comment was true; the news she was asked to comment on, was false. According to the Kerala Police, there are no reported cases of women ever carrying soaked or unsoaked pads to temples, or anywhere else (and reference to the alleged incident involving Rehana Fatima, is false as well). Who knows, she may some fictitious character. Just as some Fake news websites within hours of the Amritsar train tragedy started telling the World that the name of the train driver is ‘Imtiaz Ali’. Later it was found that the information was fake; and neither of the two trains involved had a Muslim driver.
Still, those who want to treat ‘the Rehana Fatima’ as true, can ask themselves a very simple question — Is it that easy for any woman or any person to forcibly enter any temple with something that controversial on her head?… It is simply not possible. For obvious reasons.
So we can say that even when partially, Smriti Irani fell into the Fake news trap.
But does that mean Ms. Smriti Irani’s soaked Sanitary Pad comment is acceptable in a different context or in its real context?
But as far as I look at it, I don’t see any reasonable explanation for Smriti Irani’s statement.
One, at what kind of youth thinkers’ grouping, such a question is raised; and majority in the audience accepts such remarks without much objection?
Two, how can a minister in Govt. of India see religious justification in such a temple entry ban?
To conclude, although Smriti Irani fell into the Fake news trap; OR knowingly did so; she made her and her party’s religious views open to public scrutiny. It must be noted that she is just following her party’s view on the issue. Although she is hiding the real words behind the curtain of religious practice. It must be noted that BJP in Kerala is demanding the re-imposition of the ban.
Finally, the subject of temple entry to women is very simple. Those who will want to follow the religious practice will do that. Those who don’t, will not follow it. It is that obvious. So why become so preachy about it. Ms. Smriti Irani must see the issue as a personal matter and a matter of choice for women. Thus, the minister must not offer religious justifications for such bans.