It was Bhupendra Chaubey who we found on the hot seat last week – an interview where Chaubey revealed more about his own bigoted self than Sunny Leone’s pornographic past.A few days later, it was the Sabarimala Trust whose representatives were found giving vague explanations to all and sundry when the honourable Supreme Court questioned its ban on the entry of women into the temple.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This was followed by incoherent noises made by the Muslim clerics on being questioned about curtailing a woman’s right to enter the inner sanctum of the dargah of Haji Ali. Then it was Shani Shignapur on January 26. Despite calling our country ‘Bharat Mata’, despite just having celebrated our 67th year as a democratic republic, women activists of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade were detained from entering the temple premises and exercising their constitutional right to pray.Why am I clubbing the right to pray with Sunny Leone’s interview? Because the foremost underpinning of this parochial attitude to a woman is the mindset that questions her rights and the right to be herself.The biggest thing that Chaubey’s interview revealed was his own duplicity. Throughout the interview, he considered himself a super scribe and Sunny, ‘the most searched person online’, as someone who was begging him to show her to the world. He was clearly flustered. He kept finishing Sunny’s sentences in the hope that she would say what he would have liked to hear — “I regret having done what I did in my past as a porn star, Chaubey sir”. Sorry Chaubey, like she told you in the interview, that is a ‘fantasy’ you may well indulge in. Her reality is that she does not feel apologetic about her past, which for some reason you just could not come to terms with. Well, she is not you (and thank God for it). And guess what, it is Sunny who has suddenly made you the most searched scribe on Google today and it is YOU who has made people add ‘misogynistic, supercilious, disrespectful’ and other such qualifiers before the word journalist while searching.Bhupendra Chaubey is no different from the men who believe women should not enter inside temple premises if they are menstruating. The Sabarimala temple bans women not just during their period, but throughout their reproductive age. Shani Shignapur does not allow women in the inner sanctum. There are seven other temples in India that do not allow women to enter at all or while they are menstruating. This is the attitude of a vast majority of Indians—– men and women. Evident in a question that was asked on Quora. It went something like this: ‘What is the best way to inform a lady sleeping on a Delhi metro seat that her cleavage is profoundly visible, and that her top 2-3 shirt buttons are open?’ I cringed at the administrator’s insouciance in letting this question get posted. When I rifled through the answers, I was appalled. The most viewed and other upvoted answers were on various ways to convey to the lady to ‘check herself’ in the name of ‘helping her’. Read the thread yourself if you don’t believe me. The ones who answered that the discomfort was in the mind of the person asking the question, had not more than 1 K views. But the other ‘helpful’ answers got anywhere from 5 K to 5 lakh views and many more upvotes! And the worst part was that the most ‘helpful’ answer was from a woman herself. More comments on how a bra strap also attracts undue attention became the topic of further discussion. It is this right to be a woman and to be herself that is being questioned by temples, news anchors, social sites and society today.Some temple authorities and even women devotees question the ‘sudden need’ amongst women activists to demand their right to enter a temple since the ban has been there for ages and nothing bad has happened to warrant this demand.Well, don’t they understand that denying this right to pray in their chosen space was wrong in the first place? That if nothing bad happened thus far, it is not likely to, even when the women enter? That if this argument of impurity does not hold true for Sati, it may not hold true for a temple entry either? Does progress mean being stuck to traditions justified by pseudo-scientific explanations of a biological phenomenon touted as impure? That it was vociferous protests and yes, much publicity, that brought about the changes in the rape law after the Jyoti Singh Pandey incident?It is not about the ban on entering a temple. It is not about the ‘helpful’ answers on Quora. It is not about Chaubey’s condescending ,“You have done well Sunny” in his blog. It is about the sheer freedom of being a woman and not about ‘giving’ a woman her freedom. ‘Allowing’ her to do what a man does without seeking permission. It is about the dignity of being treated as a respected citizen of this Bharat Mata.I am reminded of Rosalind Miles’ book The Women’s History of the World, which offers a great reappraisal of women and re-establishes their importance at the centre of worldwide history — in revolution, empires, war and peace. She claims that men dominate history because they write it. Well, it is time for women to re-write it.The change in attitude to women must start with women themselves. Only then we shall see the enormity of bigotry and duplicity ameliorate gradually. Only then can we truly pronounce our country a deserving Bharat ‘Mata’.

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From Sunny Leone to the Sabarimala issue: How we still struggle with freedom for women in India