Malaysiakini Letter

Temple committees must have more women's representation

Sivamalar Genapathy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | I am appalled that the management of the Batu Caves temple are continuing to practice an outdated and patriarchal tradition where women are denied the right to vote or participate in decision-making processes related to the temple or having representation on the temple's management or membership level.

I, therefore, strongly support the Reform Batu Caves Group which is advocating for women’s participation and involvement in all temple matters.

Currently, the temple Devasthanam Committee, headed by the controversial R Nadarajah sees no women represented on the temple committee board and a lack of women's participation in temple rituals. This discrimination based on gender goes against Pakatan Harapan's governance policy and must change.

It is highly commendable that the Reform Batu Caves Group is pioneering women's participation as part of their wider agenda to truly reform the temple's management. This is in line with Harapan's policies which highlight the importance of women's participation in governing the country.

I also welcome the initiative by Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran who wishes to set up Hindu Endowment Boards in all states to ensure credibility and transparency in temple management. It is also encouraging that he said: “the board would ensure conformity and uniformity in the running of temples nationwide as well as making public the financial accounts of temples”.

Additionally, I strongly recommend that the aforementioned endowment boards have adequate women's representation and that there should be no restriction on women to partake in any rituals in the temple as stipulated in the Hindu "aagamam". Women's representation must be prioritised and included in national legislation.

The country is marching forward with a strong reform agenda and women's rights are finally having the chance to be debated and considered at a policy-making level. Gender equality must, therefore, be reflected in all government initiatives.

Personally, I view discussions surrounding gender equality at temples as timely and necessary to prevent Hindu women from feeling isolated or treated as second-class citizens in their own community.

I, therefore, urge all women to support gender equality and show their support to the Reform Batu Caves Group movement by joining the peaceful Batu Malai Maha rally at 7 am on the June 24. Supporting this rally is paramount to show our power and unity on this issue.

Finally, I would like to highlight and strongly urge the Reform Batu Caves Group and ultimately the Pakatan Harapan government to incorporate the rights of women in its formation of Hindu Endowment Boards.

A wide range of stakeholders including Hindu women, scholars and members of civil society must be consulted. Now is the time to implement what was promised in our manifesto, to empower Malaysian women and to respect their role in all decision-making processes.

The writer is vice-chief, PKR's women’s wing.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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