Lord Ayappa became a god when he was 12 years. A young woman (sister of Mahisa who was vanquished by Ayyappa) wanted to marry him against his wishes but was convinced by Him to abandon her plans. She has a temple dedicated to her outside Sabarimala Temple – Maalikapurathamma Temple. Women in the most literate state in India respect her wishes and do not try to be in competition with her. That is the reason why they do not visit the temple.
For Ayyappa to remain celibate, as per His wishes, young women are not allowed at the temple.
Menstruating women are not allowed at the temple not because they are “unclean” (as detractors have claimed) but because Lord Ayyappa does not want to get married and wants to remain in exile, celibate forever in the forest. He does not want to break his promise to Maalikapurathamma, who has also become a forever maiden goddess at Sabarimala.
Devotees (men & women) are expected to be chaste and live without luxuries for 48 days before visiting the shrine. They are expected to be somewhat like rishis during that time. This includes sleeping on the ground, walking without slippers, not shaving or using cosmetics, waking up and bathing early before sunrise, avoiding entertainment, etc.
Girl children & old women are allowed to visit the site because Lord Ayyappa cannot be tempted by them from His exile in the forest. Women devotees also pray to Lord Ayyappa and help their fathers, brothers, sons and other menfolk observe vrata and reach the site as per traditions. This is their form of penance. Women don’t die at menopause. Some visit the shrine for 20 or 30 years after menopause.
Everyone knows that the age limit of 10 to 50 years is not a limit set by nature. Girls can reach puberty before this and women can menstruate even after 50. This restriction is set to assuage the broken love of Maalikapurathamma.
Most Kerala women and anyone who believes in Him support these traditions. Women who demand temple entry are from outside Kerala and do not care/know about these traditions. They do not respect the Lord and/or care more about themselves. They are out to make a political point. They are not believers and cannot be considered as devotees.
Temples are not tourist places, as many people seem to believe. It is a place exclusively for devotees. If you don’t believe in Him, you don’t go there. Nobody has a right to go to a temple. Only believers do.
There are many temples in Kerala where men are not allowed because the goddess in that kshetram as per the sthalapurana had expressly prohibited men. Men in the state do not think this is wrong. In fact, they show their devotion by respecting the restriction. Ancient temples in India have a unique sthalapurana. Devotees respect that sthalapurana and follow its customs. Sabarimala has its own sthalapurana and devotees of the state respect the customs built around the sthalapurana.
If any woman thinks that Lord Ayyappa is being unreasonable by trying to be celibate, then they don’t have to worship him. Don’t visit Sabarimala. It is that simple.