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The Women Lined Up to Form a Chain. 5M of Them

A day later, 2 women managed to enter the Sabarimala shrine
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2019 8:00 AM CST
Women raise their hands to take a pledge to fight gender discrimination as they form part of a hundreds mile long "women's wall" in Thiruvananthapuram, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Tuesday,...   (AP Photo/R.S. Iyer)
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(Newser) – A 385-mile-long wall was erected in India on Tuesday, but it was one made of flesh and bone. The "women's wall" was a human chain that formed in the southern Indian state of Kerala in the face of the still-contentious situation involving the Sabarimala shrine. It's a major Hindu temple that barred women of "menstruating age"—defined as those between 10 and 50—from entering. That ban was overturned by India's supreme court in September, but the BBC reports that protesters have gone after women who have tried to enter, essentially stymieing their efforts—until Wednesday. State police say they escorted two women in their 40s to the temple Wednesday; they were able to enter the shrine and worship. The AP reports protests broke out as a result, with tear gas used in one location, and al-Jazeera adds the temple was subsequently closed for a cleaning ritual.

The BBC explains what is different about this temple: Others have only barred women when they're actually menstruating, but mythology holds that Sabarimala's deity, Lord Ayyappa, is a bachelor who had pledged to remain celibate, leading to the more stringent ban. Women's wall organizers had anticipated 3 million women would show up; 5 million did. One tells the BBC the chain is about much more than the temple: "Sabarimala is not the main issue here today. I believe men and women are equal." But the issue of Sabarimala will be taken up again: In response to 49 petitions that have been filed, India's top court will re-examine its decision later in January. (Read more India stories.)

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