KOCHI: After the Supreme Court stirred up a hornet’s nest by giving permission to women of all ages to enter Sabarimala, the Kerala High Court issued a landmark judgment on Saturday, allowing women to trek Agasthyarkoodam, a pilgrimage centre within the Neyyar wildlife sanctuary, for the first time. With this, one of the last restrictions on gender lines has been removed.
The court said restrictions should not be imposed only on the basis of gender.
The court issued the order on a petition filed by the Women Integration and Growth Through Sports (Malappuram), Anweshi women’s counselling centre (Kozhikode) and Pennoruma (Kannur) seeking to quash the decision restricting women from trekking beyond Athirumala.
Opposing the plea, Bhagavan Kani of Kani Settlement submitted permitting women to trek six kilometres beyond Athirumala will affect the Kani tribe’s customs and traditions. Kani said they have customary right of worship at Agasthyarkoodam. Female members of the tribe do not go to the vicinity of the idol.
Women organisations submitted there was no intention to violate or wound the religious sentiments or the tribal rights. The court observed the norms issued with regard to trekking provides for entry of women above 14 years, provided they are mentally and physically sound. No trekker must be permitted to perform any ‘pooja’ or any type of worship at Agasthyarkoodam.
The trekking groups will be escorted by guides, whose wages are to be paid by trekkers in advance, according to the guidelines. Further, the court observed if the trek is being held this year, the trekkers, both male and female, should not be permitted in the immediate vicinity of the idol or to offer any religious prayers or to carry any items of worship to the Agasthyarkoodam, in the wake of the judgment dated Feb 9, 2018.
“No grounds exist to interdict the entry of women to the area in question. It’ll be open to authorities concerned to permit trekking of persons, who are physically and mentally fit to undertake a trek to the Agasthyarkoodam on specific understanding that no trekker will be permitted access to the area where the idol is situated or to offer any worship,”the oredr stated.