In what is being seen as a historic moment for gender equality in India, an estimated five million women formed a 620 km “women’s wall” which stretched from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, encompassing the whole of Kerala. This monumental gathering, organised by the state government, comes in the wake of the Sabarimala protests. Earlier, the Supreme Court had passed a verdict which allowed entry to women of all ages into the temple.

The southern Indian state has always been a beacon of progressive values and has regularly been a vocal protest hotspot when it comes to legislation passed by the BJP-led central government. Media reports earlier this morning stated that two women, aged 42 and 44, scripted history when they entered the holy shrine. For the uninitiated, before the SC ruling, women aged 10 to 50 were barred from entering the Sabarimala temple. Home to the celibate Lord Ayyappa, the shrine has historically been closed to women of menstrual age as priests believe it would be disrespectful.

Protestors have blocked entry to women for months, openly flouting the apex court’s ruling. However, the human chain that ran across Kerala, consisting of women (and men) from all walks of life is being seen as a resounding victory over conservative, mostly right-wing voices.

 

“There were so many women and there wasn’t even space for women to extend arms. If they had extended their arms, the length of the wall would have increased so much that women would be falling in the Arabian Sea,” said Subhashini Ali, a member of the Indian Communist Party to CNN.

 

“Very often, religious beliefs and sentiments have been employed to use women in subordinate positions. Today, dear sisters, you have made history. You have resisted against the dark forces that want to push women back into the dark ages. You have built the wall of resilience to take forward the values of social reforms, which are critical for women’s advancement in the 21st century. Kerala, you have moved ahead, not only for the women of Kerala but for the women across India,” said Brinda Karat, according to The News Minute.