First women at Hindu temple get protection
The first women to pray at a Hindu temple previously only visited by men are to receive round-the-clock protection, India's Supreme Court has ordered.
The top court yesterday directed the state government of Kerala to provide 24/7 security to two women who entered the Sabarimala shrine earlier this month, defying fundamentalists opposed to women of menstruating age being allowed in.
Bindu Ammini (42) and Kanaka Durga (44) had petitioned the top court for protection after they received death threats in the wake of their ground-breaking visit.
While it was legal for the pair to enter the temple following a Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional to bar women aged 10-50, or of "menstruating ages", temple devotees argue the ban was divine and owed to the celibacy of Lord Ayappa, the deity within.
Riots crippled the southern state for more than a week after Ms Ammini and Ms Durga prayed in the temple with right-wing Hindu groups calling a general strike.
"Having heard the lawyers we deem it appropriate to close this petition at this stage by directing Kerala to provide round the clock security," the court ruled.
"Beyond the above we do not consider it necessary to go into any other issues."
Ms Ammini said the verdict had made her feel safe after being forced into hiding, and she hoped the court ruling would mean more women will pay their respects at Lord Ayappa's shrine.