5 Million Indian Women Formed a 620 km Human Chain for Equality

The Women's Wall was a historic moment in the fight for gender and religious equality in India


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On New Year's Day 2019, five million Indian women joined hands to form a 620 kilometer (380 miles) long human chain in support of women's religious rights in the south-western state of Kerala. 

This was a historic event of epic proportions. Never before in the history of the state has a mass gathering of Indian feminists standing up for equal treatment occurred.

The Women's Wall stretched from Kasargod in the northern part of Kerala all the way to Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. The health minister, KK Shailaja, was the first link in the Women's Wall and politician Brinda Karat was the final link. Karat told The Times of India that on this day, "Kerala has scripted history. This is a message to the whole of India.”

The human chain was comprised of women of all castes, classes, and religion and was sponsored by the state's ruling party to support a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows women of menstruating age to enter the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala.

Women have been historically banned from the Sabarimala temple because worshippers believe that they could tempt Lord Ayyappa from his vow of celibacy. Others view women of menstruating age, 10 to 50, as impure.

The Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in his ruling that “Religion cannot be the cover to deny women the right to worship. To treat women as children of a lesser god is to blink at constitutional morality.”

This ban has become a flashpoint in the national argument for gender equality and religious rights in India. While the Supreme Court ruled in September 2018 to allow the entrance of women, traditionalists have massed in the thousands for the past three months to keep women out by force.

That's when women decided to take the matters into their own linked hands. Five million women have made it clear that they will work together until they get the rights they deserve and put an end to gender inequality in India.

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