PhD Candidate

Ms Radhika Agarwal

Radhika is a doctoral candidate at Melbourne Law School.  She holds an undergraduate degree in law from India and a masters degree (with specialisation in intellectual property law) from the University of London. Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, she worked in India for two years. Her thesis focuses on the right to equality under Indian law, and also the freedom of religious institutions to govern themselves. It includes a case study of the recent Sabarimala Temple dispute, which involves a challenge to the ban on entry of women into the temple.

The thesis will examine the issue of whether the current approach of the judiciary to address gender-based discrimination in religious practices is actually judicial overreach and interference in the rights of religious communities to govern themselves.

Thesis Title

Contours of Judicial Interpretation of Gender-based Discrimination in Religious Practices: How Much is Too Much?

Thesis Summary

Despite the constitutional right to equality and prohibition of gender-based discrimination guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, certain religious practices and customs which seem to discriminate on the basis of gender continue to exist in India. These religious practices, such as the prohibition of entry of women in religious shrines, have often been challenged in courts as being discriminatory and hence violative of the right to equality protected under Article 14 of the Constitution. The thesis will examine the rationale behind gender bias in certain religious practices, and whether they are indeed essential to the practice of religion. The objective of the thesis is to understand how national courts have interpreted right to equality of women in religious practices, and to subsequently answer the question - whether this is judicial overreach and interference in the rights of religious communities to govern themselves.

Feedback on Program

"My PhD experience has been a deeply enriching one- I am extremely grateful to be mentored by my supervisors Tarun and Farrah, and to be a part of the rich academic community at Melbourne Law School. The Indian Equality Law Program has enabled me to work on the scope of religious freedom in India, an issue that is currently being hotly debated."