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The new year kicked off in India with a major development in the fight over women’s access to a famous Hindu temple. Protesters have blocked women of “menstruating age” from entering Sabarimala since September, when the Supreme Court ruled that all women had a right to enter the sacred space. This week, though, two women managed to slip into the temple in the middle of the night, setting off celebrations and protests.
“The whole country, and especially the state of Kerala, where Sabarimala is located, was taken aback by the news,” HuffPost India’s Sharanya Hrishikesh said. “The temple’s priest conducted a ‘purification ritual’ after the women’s entry on Wednesday, there was a violent strike called by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday, and on Friday, even as protests are going on, news broke of a third woman entering the temple to offer prayers — a Sri Lankan national.”
HuffPost India reported on the role a Facebook page played in connecting the law professor and grocery store manager currently riling up the country. It also reported on the fascinating about-face most of the original Supreme Court petitioners have made since first pushing for women’s access to the temple. Of the five women who originally advocated for equal access, just one still stands by her original views.
“There is still a long way to go — the issue has exposed deep divides within Kerala, and there are many women who have internalized biases and claim they are ready to wait until they reach menopause to visit the temple,” Sharanya said. “The taboo around menstruation and temple visits will require a lot of work to be undone. But this is a spectacular start to the year in terms of gender equality.”
Until next time,
The U.K. Foreign Office has been billing women for the cost of their rescue from forced marriages overseas, The Times newspaper reported this week. The office’s Forced Marriage Unit, which assists with rescues of British nationals duped or coerced into marriages abroad, has been withholding the passports of survivors who can’t pay for their own rescue, the report said. A survivor of forced marriage responded to the news in a blog post for HuffPost U.K. that sheds light on the way some families manipulate their daughters into marrying strange men thousands of miles from home. It’s a fascinating read that does credit the Foreign Office for investigating nearly 1,200 forced marriage cases last year. But it also makes clear how the policy uncovered by the Times puts vulnerable women in an even more vulnerable position. “These are not victims who had a choice, they didn’t go to their local travel agent and book two weeks in the sun, overspending their resources on a jolly and expecting the good old British taxpayer to foot the bill,” Jasvinder Sanghera writes. “They are victims of crime at the hands of the very people who should have loved and protected them.”
New members of U.S. Congress took office on Thursday and, boy, were there a lot of memorable scenes. This Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history, boasting the largest number of female members ever. If you’re in the mood to get a little choked up, check out this video of the first Native American congresswomen sharing an emotional embrace. Or scroll through some of the proud photos Palestinian-Americans shared on social media in response to the first Palestinian-American congresswoman (and one of the first Muslim women in Congress) wearing a traditional dress for her swearing-in on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran. There are also these videos of representatives’ children and grandchildren celebrating the historic day and this image of the youngest congresswoman in history taking her oath in suffragette white. This Congress looks more like America than any before, and HuffPost U.S.’s Emily Peck writes that the new female representation will pose a serious challenge to the sort of sexism women in government have historically faced. “Alone, one woman can do a little to combat sexism, but together, a diverse group can break through insidious stereotypes and take on men like Trump — who’ve spent their careers ignoring women.”