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Raining Rape-Speech in Kerala

February 16, 2013

It is hardly news in Kerala by now that its been raining misogynists, rape-talkers, and swollen-rotten masculine egos in these early days of 2013. The PJ Kurien controversy has been a trigger of course. But I am astounded at the collective frenzy of Congress stalwarts. Kerala today is like a coconut garden taken over by a bunch of supremely drunken … well .. simians. Here we are, helplessly watching the tipsy horde ascend the fruit-laden coconut palms, pulling down ripe fruit and raw ones, tender leaves and drying ones, with  nary a care for all of us down here! Everyone, from senior leaders,  many insecure dumb ass-males on FB and Youtube, to minor lawyers in small-town courts with sadly dessicated minds but hugely swollen male-egos, to elected MLAs on the floor of the Kerala State Assembly, and judges whose guardian-angelic misogynist aura glints a bit more menacingly in private conversations,each of them seem to be up their own coconut tree throwing down various half-witted, asinine comments,venting their immense distrust of women who don’t fit into the homely-comely-motherly stereotype.

Let me give you a sample of the various clumsy ola-madals currently landing on the heads of innocent Malayalees: According to the Mathrubhumi’s reporter P S Jayan who covers the Kerala State Assembly’s proceedings (Trivandrum edition,14 February 2013), Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan turned down the Opposition’s demand for re-investigation of the infamous Suryanelli serial-rape Case, which is currently rocking the Congress’ boat again in Kerala after 17 years. The victim, who was just about 16 years old when she was abducted and subjected to rape for over 40 days continuously, has consistently accused the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien of having tormented her. On 31 Jan 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the verdict of the Kerala High Court which had acquitted the overwhelming majority of the 35 persons who had been found guilty by the special court, and reduced the sentence of the single accused that it found guilty. And Kurien’s alibi has been wearing rather thin too. No wonder, then, that the Congress stalwarts have all gone into the coconut-tree-climbing tizzy.

The Minister claimed that the government had received legal advice that there were no grounds for re-investigation — and that the reference to ‘victim’ in the Central Government’s ordinance can be female or male! “Have you any prior experience with Kurien?” snapped Vayalar Ravi at a woman TV journalist who had asked him about the controversy. Later, like the tipsy gentleman up above whose intention is merely to share the joys of a juicy tender coconut, he apologized and said he liked to joke with journalists.

The bigger joke is of course is the Kerala Government’s desperation to pass legislation to ‘protect the privacy and dignity ‘ of women running precisely parallel to their desperation to protect P J Kurien who seems to be getting sewed tighter and tighter into the most uncomfortably ‘protective’ gunny-bag of self-proclaimed innocence. Mathrubhumi’s N S Jayaprakash (Trivandrum edition,15 Feb 2013) reports what seems to be the veritable downpour of misogynist half-ripe coconuts in the discussion of the proposed bill: K Muralidharan cut down the first bunch of rather hard-skinned macchingas : Women are under threat, he claimed, because of Cafe Coffee Day. Because of off-track walking. Also because of mobile phones and too little clothing. But he was afraid that he may not be able to smile anymore at women in his constituency because of this bill, reports Jayaprakash. Dominic Presentation seems to have climbed a much-taller tree because his missile struck the ground much harder: he felt that the bill may affect “cross-eyed people” (men, he meant) adversely. Because they may seem to be looking at women when they are actually not.

Not to be undone, their friends outside the Assembly have clambered high above and unleashed a veritable hail of sturdy coconut stems, flower-bunches, in fact, chopped down almost the whole of their respective tree-tops. Leading the pack is the gentleman who may well be crowned the Prince of Male Chauvinst Blather, a certain R Kumar, who has apparently been training student police cadets in Kerala’s colleges. Few can outdo the missiles that he hurls from high above, which are canon-balls than  coconuts. Here is a sample of his ‘rape-speech’ made at a prominent women’s college in Thiruvananthapuram — words which carry the same hateful desire to discipline the ‘wayward jeans-clad woman’– shared on the internet:

The male community, including myself, needs only 10 minutes, just ten minutes (pointing to himself) as a Biology medical science teacher I can say, just ten minutes, to send what is called sperm, into the uterus of a female. But for the next 10 months the child will grow in the mother’s, the woman’s womb. That is why the Holy Koran teaches that women should conduct herself properly. But, they (girls) don’t like it!If a boy jumps, ‘I want to jump more than that’ is the girl’s attitude. If you (girls) try to jump like the boys do, you will slip and fall and hurt your backbone and your uterus will be displaced. Then you will have to go to (mentions some hospital) spend 3 to 4 lakhs to get the uterus back in place, that is if you want to have a family. If you don’t need a family then its okay.”

The Prince was deeply puzzled by all the outrage: why, I praised women, really, he pouted later. I said they were mothers and gave birth in pain! But the second place was taken by none other than R Basant, former High Court Judge and the one of the Archangels of Kerala’s Guardian Angelic Moral Police force (I have written on this style of moral police earlier, on Kafila). Widely recognized in Kerala for his integrity, his guardian angelic aura makes it hard for us to imagine him on top of something as mundane as a coconut tree. But his statements, apparently made in personal conversation, make us believe that he manages to part of the mayhem staying right on the ground, and without being the slightest sign of tiddliness. And of course, it confirms the feeling that his judgement in the Kerala High Court in 2005 which acquitted nearly all the accused in the Suryanelli Case was also guided by deep prejudices against women, especially young, non-motherly women.

Indeed, as I try to pick myself up after having been knocked down by several of these missiles, I wonder what is it that has let loose this sudden collective assault on young, non-motherly women, by men from such diverse walks of life, and in such frantic ways that clearly border on the absurd? I’m not saying that there are no women at all in their brigade. Indeed, I’d count among them certain prominent women who told me that they felt that Eve Ensler should not perform ‘The Vagina Monologues’ in Thiruvananthapuram as it was ‘culturally inappropriate’. Their fears, too, are all about the young, non-motherly, jeans-clad young woman who demands control over her body too explicitly.

What is it that makes the Malayalee elite feel so threatened by young women? Visiting women’s colleges in Kerala today, one cannot but be struck by the constant effort to confine young women to ‘safe spaces’, monitor their movements constantly, efface their sexualities through dress-codes and codes of conduct, and refuse them the power and dignity of youth by reducing them to ‘adolescent girls’! Recently, I was amused to note how, at a prominent women’s college in Thiruvananthapuram, all the young women were wrapped up in drab uniforms while their middle-aged women teachers all seemed dressed to kill, in expensive sarees of silk and cotton, and clad in considerable amounts of gold jewellery!  Of course that partly gladdens the heart of a middle-aged woman like me, but it also set naked before me a clearly emergent hierarchy not just of pedagogy but of class and, importantly, age. Clearly, the aging Malayalee elite seem more threatened by young women than by young men — and not really surprisingly.

Life has certainly changed in Kerala since the 1990s and the structural conditions that produced angry young men are weaker now: unemployment has fallen significantly for men; opportunities for migration are ever-greater; and boys are all the more valued at home since even an addle-brained nincompoop can successfully claim a few lakhs as dowry. Now we have structural conditions that will hopefully produce the angry young woman: whose opportunities in the labour market continue to the be strictly limited, whose entry into public life is seemingly smoothened, but seriously limited, whose life and death are made to depend on their marriageability — which includes, primarily, the ability to shell out a significant dowry.

I think this shrinkage of space for young women and girls has something to do with the apparent rise of violence, especially sexual violence, against young girls by their own family members in Kerala. Though this may turn out to be reporting bias, I cannot help noting: it is not that the trafficking of young girls was unknown in Kerala. Indeed, in the near-famine conditions of the 1940s, the starving poor did sell their children, especially girls, for cheap — and this was widely lamented in the radical left writings of the period. But I have also found evidence of something similar to the kind of violence we find reported now, against young girls by their family members — and that was within the confines of the homesteads of the conservative Malayala brahmins. The terrible oppression and lack of value of the Malayala brahmin women is of course an abiding theme in Kerala’s social reform-saga. But one wonders if there aren’t certain similarities between that absurdly patriarchal structure and the present-day Malayalee elite family. For instance, in the ‘structural worthlessness’ of young women, who are, in a structural sense,  objects who must be given away in marriage necessarily, and to equals or superiors through dowry payments, and whose unmarried status/ free choice of a partner would bring great ignominy and loss of face to her kin. Also, the fact that obligations of the natal family to the young woman, especially of her brothers, are essentially around the conduct of her marriage. Brothers may support sisters whose marriages have failed, but their support is not given within the structure of kinship obligations, rather they are driven by such aspects of the relationship as personal closeness and normative considerations, the strength of which may wary.

But alas, I must say that this is just loud thinking. We need good, rigorous, ‘angry’ research to open up a whole set of questions that will rip the mask off the Malayalee elites’ self-perception of itself and Malayalee society in general — especially about family life and intimate relationships.  I do hope the present discursive assault by sundry patriarchs provokes productive anger of many kinds in young women, but especially intellectual anger. Good sociological research — of the sort that would help one to make sense of social change, fueled by precisely such anger — seems to be largely dead in the state. Instead we seem to be stuck on themes that are ‘safe’. Or plain foolish. I will never forget a certain young woman from a university in Kerala, who came to meet me. She said that she was going to research the history of Pathanamthitta district. Oh, I asked her, are you going to do local history? Not yet, she said, giving me a coy smile and dimpling prettily. But very soon I will be doing local history. Because my marriage is in two months and I will be a Pathanamthitta local after my wedding. This young woman was anything but angry.

But one may also not necessarily expect intellectual anger from Malayalee students in the more politically and intellectually-charged metropolitan universities and institutions inside and outside India. I have often observed with amusement the way some of these shrewd young people pick topics : fashionable (i.e. in circulation in these metropolitan campuses), politically correct (i.e. in line with the reigning intellectual wisdom there), and requiring the shortest, easiest, and most enjoyable data collecting (here the rule is, pick a population that is necessarily small so that extensive interviewing etc can be avoided). Or analyse already available data  — so easy now, with all the software you don’t have to move from the armchair! And I have realized that such quantitative research relying on ready-made, large data-sets could even be a form of therapy for those of us in qualitative research who are continuously ambushed and harried by the unpredictability of the real world! For reducing the world to numbers may potentially afford us the comforting illusion about its manageability!

Of course there are very many students who aspire to avoid these well-worn tracks, and  they are not at fault necessarily — there have also been changes in the research system that forces students to take the easier path. However, there is still a very visible lack of imagination in tackling the latter and in asserting intellectual independence. And just as an intellectual vacuum can produce mediocrity, an atmosphere in which political correctness locks us into little intellectual-moral circles that we mis-recognize to be the public can produce fashionable-looking banalities. Right now, I can hardly see the angry young woman in my field, social research, who would interrogate the patriarchy of her times to produce a resistant new discourse.

But surely, there is light at the end of the tunnel: for instance, in the form of the lone young woman at Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram – Arya – who stood up to challenge the Prince of Misogynist Blather mentioned above and who did not flinch even when blithely insulted by him. May her tribe increase!

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Rhema permalink
    February 16, 2013 9:04 AM

    Aah…sweet male god’s country…of nuts/men, and Other Goods available for viewing and groping. Have never been objectified in any other state as much as in this grotesquely twisted male domain…Moving from mother-worshipping Madras, I spent two years trying to live with my roots. Traumatically branded as jowli(roughly means piece of cloth?), charakku(goods), vedi(firecracker, in the most derisive light), I rushed to the safety of the indoors when the sun set to save myself from men whose sole career, in the absence of employment, seemed to be the delectation of women against their will and the possession of them at any age. What drives a certain kind of male Mal to such a single-minded pursuit? In any class, at any age, this kind prove their masculinity by group drinking, group name-calling of women, group planning on how to lay the same women, group alibi support to escape wives’ eyes and lay women their daughter’s age…..Now if only they would think of group male therapy so they can reclaim their lost masculinity and get over whatever ancient demons of repression they’ve got ingrained in them.

    • February 16, 2013 12:35 PM

      After HAAPY ONAM, here is another totally true to life reporting of the more than deplorable conditions women of Kerala endure, by Dr.Devika! Rhema’s comments are also music to the ears for their sheer truthfulness.
      However I heard one heartening story recently by chance from an elderly gentleman who paused to happily look at me squatting on the floor of a public place, briskly drawing a sale poster for my upcycled bags..He is part ,it seems ,of a small group in some rural place in North Kerala that decided to to revive Thiruvathira with all the women getting together to adorn each other with flowers, swing, yell,dance,swim publicly at night.
      …The spirit [nope.,not the sort vended at the Bev.corp shaaps] generated was directed then to enroll women into a week long free coconut climbing training workshop following which the plan is to extend to the trained ladies all benefits from the coconut development board.
      It seems there is a dearth of male coconut climbers now in the state who physically climb the real coconut trees ..Maybe they are all busy climbing the sort Devika has written about in this fine piece…

    • February 17, 2013 10:18 AM

      Bear with me, I think ‘vedi’ is the slang for prostitute (at least in my part of the country- erstwhile Central Travancore) and not ‘fire cracker’ as Rhema says. Thanks.

  2. February 16, 2013 2:58 PM

    jdevika you have done it finally.I always wanted this to happen. my compliments for your efforts for this brave and urgently needed critic and exposure of the Malyalee psyche, from an autonomous woman’s perspective. The Kerala society still has this “ immense distrust of women who don’t fit into the homely-comely-motherly stereotype” as you mention it.AND at the same time an immensely disturbed sexuality and sexual relationship towards women. We have to also admit that generally the Malyalee women themselves are also very much stuck up in their traditional role, even though many of them in fact most of them are educated and employed.
    The remarks of R.Kumar “The male community, including myself, needs only 10 minutes, just ten minutes (pointing to himself) as a Biology medical science teacher I can say, just ten minutes, to send what is called sperm, into the uterus of a female. But for the next 10 months the child will grow in the mother’s, the woman’s womb. That is why the Holy Koran teaches that women should conduct herself properly. But, they (girls) don’t like it!” are reflections of the general mindset of men in Kerala.
    I remember from the time we had our 4th (or 3rd?) autonomous women’s national meet in December 1990 at Calicut, I have been trying to sensitize people in India and abroad on the sexist biases of even the erstwhile “Leftist”, “communist” state Kerala. Many would not believe me. That for them women’s question is a subsidiary one (as Marx called it Nebenwiderspruch, for him the contradiction/conflict was only at class level, not gender level) became clear to everyone who attended the conference and witnessed the protest from the Marxists faction at the very fact that women ‘s question was at all being discussed. Like in east Eurpoean countries (I speak of east Germany in seventies and eighties)the communists don’t accept that the problem existrd.
    there have been several instances which I would like to briefly introduce here to subscribe to the issues you are raising, the inability of the Malyalee society to accept that there is something terribly wrong with them as regards man-woman question goes. And it has several bad/cruel effects on the lives of their women.
    when I used to go for walks on the beach in Calicut all on my own, even very young boys would think it fit to make comments and pester me.
    Later once when I was there with my 2 German female friends, they were whistling at them. I wrote about such instances a couple of times for the local paper and they did publish them.
    Later many a times I came across instances where I got the feel that as an autonomous independent woman I am misunderstood and/or not liked.
    I know a couple of families personally and used to visit th regularly, because I love being in Kerala, just as much as I love it in my birthplace in Kashmir. The men would much appreciate discussing with me on all sorts of issues like organic agriculture and globalization and its impacts. In one case he would even ask me to expose his daughter and wife on women’s issues, which I tried too, but then I gave up, due to communication problems and also the disinterest of the women in general..
    Ajita’s efforst in the only Women’s group Anveshi were good, but my historian friend would himself tell me about the difficulties she has to face to get acceptance from society and the repressive nature of society as regards the man-woman question goes. The various sex scandals of politicians and the sex-worker case are examples.
    In one case I myself realized it, when my agriculturist friend told me that his wife was angry when she saw myself with my German friends having a glas of beer and even smoking a cigarette, which they had brought from Europe and I was keen on tasting it. Afterwards she told her husband to not be so social with me, no discussions and no invitations etc.
    The best was lastly when I was visiting my retired friend once on way to Chennai and accepted his invitation to stay at his residence overnight before taking the train next morning from that junction Railway station near his house. He wanted me to sleep in his wife’s bed next to him, and said he won’t touch me when I showed reluctance. Unfortunately our friendship has stopped due to this ugly experience for me. I had assumed we are old enough to trust each other…
    I look forward to more women in Kerala coming out in the open and challenging the traditional values thrust solely upon them to “upkeep the morals “ of the society. The Malyalees are no different than the men of the rest of the country, though one would expect them to be so, since there is much more equality otherwise in this society.
    This again proves that the man-woman issue needs to be discussed in all its dimensions and in all societies, whether Communist, Conservative, Hindu or Muslim etc.

  3. February 16, 2013 11:31 PM

    Brilliantly written. The distressing thing about Kerala is how most of the mainstream media in the state are often party to this misogynist diatribes as well.

  4. February 17, 2013 12:46 AM

    Kerala was long championed for its excellent human development indicators. Now we see, 100% Literacy does not mean 100% education. Kudos to the writer for having the patience to write this long but insightful piece.

  5. February 17, 2013 11:51 PM

    Wow! That’s hell of a long comment or rather critique on/of the male species in Kerala .But were they like this always or is it something to do with the social reality in the state? Many families are disjointed families with the men working abroad and the women back home bringing up the kids. The male child seems to be a pampered and spoilt brat and in the absence of the father, much out of control. To top it, the political parties exploit the children for their needs and in the end you have men who are brash, chauvinistic, drunken buffoons. Since they are brought up mostly by the mothers, they fear the female and to compensate for that use violence in the form of invectives, jeering, leering and molesting where they get a chance. It is not a coincidence that Kerala is also the most drunken state in India.

  6. Indignant Bloke permalink
    February 18, 2013 1:28 AM

    The rot had set in long ago and is not a recent phenomenon. The first instance I personally recollect of a public figure putting his foot where his mouth is was in the early 90s in Kerala, when the then chief minister EK Nayanar dismissed news reports of increasing rape cases in the state. His justification? It went something like this: “Big deal — in the US rapes are as common as drinking tea. You have a cup of tea, and then you go out and commit a rape.” It did create a furor at the time but did it lead to his resignation? Surprise, surprise — it didn’t affect him in the least. If this is the mentality of an elected representative of the people who was also the leader of a major leftist political party, clearly there isn’t much hope.

    Oh, and ‘vedi’ is slang for whore everywhere in Kerala (and not just the south), though there are other choice epithets as well.

  7. anish permalink
    February 18, 2013 3:02 PM

    Wish to add another thing to this debate. Another dimension of pen-pushing by the correspondents of ‘the Hindu’ to the atrocious comments of Justice Basant who happen to be the second judge in the Bench of High Court of Kerala that set free all but one in the Sooryanelly case.

    On 14 February 2013 it was Krishnadas Rajagopal of The Hindu to write under the caption Judicious voice, drowned in a row to lay bare the unknown facets of former Justice R Basant, who along with his co-judge delivered a male chauvinistic and bizarre judgment on the now infamous Sooryanelly gang rape case. The reporter claimed that the judgment had a ‘voice of empathy’. The news report quotes from the judgment to demonstrate this ‘empathy’: “It is difficult for the child, not groomed in proper atmosphere with a proper value system inculcated in it, to resist such temptations. Such children can be termed deviants but cannot be merely condemned and left to their fate… Such unfortunate incidents like the one in this case, which seem to be too frequent in Kerala scenario of late, should not be viewed merely as god-sent opportunities for improving stakes in the electoral battles to follow.” [Italics mine]. The Hindu needs to elaborate, what is proper atmosphere? ; proper value system?; deviant?; and god-sent opportunities! (Remember the teenager had tormenting days in the hands of the butchers: If it was a god-sent opportunity, how cruel the God indeed is?). The case being the elopement of the teenager with a man leaves more room for preaching for the ‘morally upright’ judge and the Hindu. What is ‘proper’ for Basant and the Hindu is to marry according to the norms set by the society: caste, class or community and live within that institution of marriage. In this chauvinistic reading the teenage girl naturally became “deviant’ and ‘honour killings’ are justified without any delay.
    However, the Hindu like a sanatana Hindu never stopped with one day preaching. On 14 February 2013 the Hindu published another set of bullshit by Anand Haridas and G.Krishnakumar under the caption A single blot in a copybook career on Basant. The report clearly shows that in cases involving women or women harassment and instances of women using her agentive autonomy in choosing their partners , Justice R. Basant acted as a patriarchal male chauvinist or in the words of the reporters of The Hindu ‘a jurist who embraced the traditional and conventional role’. Yet the reporters and the caption portray him as a right man with a single blot on this career.
    Of late the Hindu had published a lot of stories on paid news, which are laudatory and hats off to that gentleman genius, P. Sainath. However the reports on Basant turned out to be the Hindu variety of paid news. Here payment of cash may not be taking place. But when you have powerful friends or acquaintances or contacts in the media (strengthened on the axis of gender/caste/ class / community) you can use them/ they are happily been used for pen-pushing and ‘image enlarging”. This is what Basant stories mean to me.

    • Kavita Krishnan permalink
      February 20, 2013 9:17 AM

      Thanks for bringind this to our notice.

  8. T T Sreekumar permalink
    February 19, 2013 7:12 AM

    Great piece! Hits the nail on the head!
    What is appalling is the kind of veneration Rejith Kumar receives in a section of social media as some ‘great mind’, a great scholar, humiliated by ‘Veshyanet” (Social Media’s derogatory reference to the Malayalam channel Asianet, ‘Vesya’ means prostitute). He is portrayed in most of social media as a ‘victim’, insulted by a degenerate girl and later by local media while there is a near unequivocal disapproval of P J Kurien (-although following Congress M P Sudhakaran’s scandalous and misogynous outburst in support of him, a few posts that justify Kurian have also surfaced in Facebook) . The subtle similarities between the two incidents are being overlooked and Rejith Kumar’s irresponsible misogyny has been understood mostly as ‘civilization’s response to P J Kurien! Morozov’s recent review of Johnson’s book “Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age” makes a nuanced and layered argument on “Why Social Movements Should Ignore Social Media”. Of course, he does not mean we should ignore social media, but argues why it is necessary to continue critiques of both internet centrism and cyber utopianism.

  9. Kavita Krishnan permalink
    February 20, 2013 8:56 AM

    Thank you for calling for productive anger as intellectual fuel: most important. Btw have you seen this – http://www.indianexpress.com/news/machismo-and-the-malayali/1076003/ EP Unny on Machismo and the Malayali

  10. February 20, 2013 10:09 AM

    I liked all the points raised by Devika in this beautifully written piece.
    Nevertheless, the phrase ‘politically correct’ looks ambiguous ; it can simply mean different things for different people . In general , this phrase looks to be loaded in spite of the fact that sections of academics still accept it as a (fashionable! ) way of alluding to the existence of many schools of thought policing. .

  11. February 20, 2013 10:42 AM

    Thanks, Kavita, for the link.
    Nice observations by EP Unny there:
    “..Oddly enough, even among veteran politicians who need no lessons in political correctness or electoral risk, Vayalar Ravi is no lone offender. The older and wiser V.S. Achuthanandan, a champion of women’s causes, had to apologise for an off-colour comment he blurted out against his rival candidate Lathika Subhash during the last assembly poll.

    What has changed between poll time and now is that the offender today offends even more brazenly, hoping that he can still mouth an apology and get away with it. For how long is a question that is finally beginning to be asked. Arya Suresh, an undergrad student of a women’s college in the state’s capital, booed and walked out on a value education instructor in the middle of a lecture that would delight a khap panchayat. In a society that loves to get contrarian, for once, parents, teachers, college authorities and the media stood firmly by the girl. The offender was at least isolated.

    But why, in the first place, would a seasoned politician and a trained teacher resort to sexist-speak? The state’s alert, competitive and expanding media (which just added a couple of TV channels) did not sting either of them. They were willing performers. Minister Ravi delivered his punchline on live TV, dramatically shifting tone, tenor and body language to taunt the woman reporter. In the women’s college, the instructor spoke with singular conviction and would hardly have altered his script even if a dozen television and mobile phone cameras were rolling. What is playing out is perhaps an escalating brazenness provoked by increasing disapproval and resistance from the target groups.

    Such male chauvinist acts are no less driven by a certain compulsive urge to make catchy remarks. The pithy Malayalam one-liner has long worked as an attention grabbing device. Since the 1980s, almost every Malayalam newspaper has been featuring a weekly pick of verbal taunts and retorts culled out of public utterances and writings. This bunch has had its share of jokes at women’s expense. Though the editors might, in these gender-sensitive times, get a bit more selective, the fact remains that the Malayali’s notion of humour itself has a chronic sexist slant, which shows no sign of abating and is in no way confined to irritable politicians and self-righteous instructors.

    Kerala’s entertainment industry is hugely dependent on humour. For decades, comic subplots carried the Malayalam movie. Mimicry shows, televised and otherwise, have remained big hits for a long time. Not a single newspaper comes out without a box cartoon on the front page and a bigger one inside. The Malayali must have his humour. His, not hers.

    The hugely talented film comedians and mime artists are not beyond revelling in feudo-sexual expressions. There is a new crop of filmmakers more in tune with the times but the voice artists have a ready excuse to stay regressed — they mostly mimic yesteryear celebrities. You would think that of all the entertainers, the cartoonists would have bucked the sexist trend. Wrong.

    In their reaction to recent atrocities against women in and outside the state, Malayalam cartoonists have penned pro-woman captions but the giveaway is the visual — often insensitive, overdone and self-defeating. Just when one thought this was a mere flaw in the craft came more audacious stuff from some of the finest practitioners. Displayed in colour across three columns and two panels in a leading newspaper, a drawing shows a young, bright film actor getting into and out of marriage, her divorce underlined as a big comedown. Another, no less colourful, features Arundhati Roy and goes to town with serial wordplay across “gang rape”, “grape” and “rape”. Would Kerala’s women boo a bit louder, please?”

  12. Rajesh permalink
    February 20, 2013 10:42 AM

    It would be useful to review the judgements of courts in the Suryanelli case (especially the judgement of Justice Basant in the Kerala High Court) In the context of the ongoing attempts to distinguish between sex work and trafficking for sex work for decriminalising the former. Basant recently referred to the victim (who was a minor at the time of the incidents of relay-rape in 1996) as a `deviant’, and a Congress MP has called her as a `prostitute’, whereas the case appears to have been one of trafficking of a minor for sex work. I hope some of the fine writers on Kafila will focus on these aspects of the case.

  13. Mary Litty Thomas permalink
    February 20, 2013 9:36 PM

    Asha mam, I’m truly blessed and extremely proud to have been your student. What I could not express in words, you did it in such a powerful manner….. I hope and pray to raise my son and daughter to be humans…. not a tiger or a dove. One would think that moving to a place far far away from malluland i.e., US in my case, would make things different. But I realized that the male-female roles do not change rather, become more and more pathetic. I was rather shocked by a friend who I had known really well back in India and had immigrated to US at the same time I did in 2005. She was a liberal thinker and she still is one ‘politically’. Now she is a mother or a beautiful 4 year old girl and a 2 year old son. A few months ago she called me and told me that they were moving back to India. It was a decision not out of love for her motherland or out of love for her ancestry (her parents both passed away a few years ago). Her reason shell-shocked me….. It’s because of her ‘daughter’ …. I do not have words to describe the horror I felt for this child. She is an innocent little girl who has her whole life ahead of her…. Whose parents want to ensure her ‘chastity’ by moving back to Kerala… A place I was so proud of as a child but is now filled with all these “drunken simians” as you put it. This child is going to be in invisible bondage till she is married off snd God knows what after. What disturbs me more is her response to my query ..” What about your son ( her name)?” …. She said ” he is a boy and what he does has no consequence or brings no shame to the family and it will be discrete.” She further insulted all of humanity by explaining in much simpler words …a ‘wayward’ daughter can bring shame to the parents by becoming pregnant — which is visible while a son can get any number of women pregnant but he will not have any visible signs. I was angry and insulted as a woman first. It’s because of these mothers that the future of women in strongly patriarchal societies looks bleak. Mothers spend more time with their children. She has to change her outlook and imbibe in her children the true values of human freedom. It is such mothers that perpetuate the down-troding of women. For starters, women have to change their attitude and slowly it will start infiltrating the whole community. Mothers, mother-in-laws, sisters can help raise a heathy future generation based on the strong values of liberty, equality, justice, and happiness for all. Sons raised by such mothers will not be tigers ready to pray on susceptible young girls and daughters raised by such mothers will not become docile doves…

  14. Sarika permalink
    February 23, 2013 2:13 PM

    Devika,
    Thanks a lot for writing this.Very rarely come across ladies in Kerala who really think that there is something wrong here.While studying in Kerala , I had lots of friends whose literacy meant scoring 90% on paper.

    99 out of 100 girls I knew thought that dowry was okay and had no qualms in blaming father if he was unwilling to give dowry,they never thought twice before giving up a boy friend just because he happened to be from a different caste. They usually mocked girls who dared to question and even as per these highly educated females ,a girl who said no to a marriage just because they did not like the guy their father had selected for them was wasting her life.Girls who who made a hue a cry about inequality or even groping while travelling in bus were meted out a small smirk.Marriage was the meaning of life and they used to be more than happy to step into the mold somebody had set for them ages ago.Most of them liked working in prestigious positions and would return home in evening and would n’t think about buying potato without consulting a husband.Once married most women even cease celebrating festive occasions at their parents house. I have had friends who never once went home to celebrate occasion with her parents.Even for sending money to her aged parents out of her salary , she takes approval from her husband and mostly amount is halved if husband or his family thinks that he amount is too much.

    Before we blame men for behaving like simians , we have to remember , most of what they do now they have learned from a society comprising of fathers and also mothers.Why do we submit to patriarchal attitude while bringing up our sons?Recently I had a 25 year old friend of mine finding fault with me as she saw me making an effort with my 6 year old son get involved in simple house hold chores. I have a highly educated cousin who has 2 great sons, the sweetest boys I ever came across,who have been told by their mother that kitchen is a not a place where she wants to see them ever helping out and domestic chores are too lowly for them to ever contribute to and their future wives would be taking care of them.

    My point is that we have to make a change , it has to begin at home and it needs to be initiated by the mothers.Mother who think beyond scoring a 90% on paper.Is it going to be difficult?Yes.But not impossible.If an Amrita can single handedly bring down a gang of eve teasers , cant we manage ourselves at home?

  15. bob permalink
    March 25, 2013 4:39 PM

    The thing is many indian and malayali men do not understand woman. They do not think and realize a girl’s need for freedom, happiness, joy, sensitivity etc. Our parents treated women roughly and cruelly and we too continue to do so. I wish every man would think of the fragility, sensitivity, vulnerability and how a woman should be treated in a kind manner.
    I love malayali girls and wish them all freedom and joy.

  16. Aby permalink
    November 8, 2013 9:13 PM

    നമ്മുടെ നാട്ടിൽ ആർക്കും ഒരു സുരക്ഷയും ഇല്ല. എവിടെയും പീഡനങ്ങളും കുറ്റകൃത്യങ്ങളും. കൂടുതലും ജനം അറിയാതെ പോകുന്നു. അറിഞ്ഞാലും വാർത്തയാവുന്നില്ല. ഒന്നുകിൽ പ്രശസ്ത വ്യക്തികൾ ഉൾപെട്ടതവണം അല്ലെങ്കിൽ ഇര ക്രൂരമായി വധിക്കപ്പെടനം. എങ്കിലെ വാർത്തയാകു. സൌമ്യയും ഡൽഹി പെണ്കുട്ടിയും മറക്കാൻ സമയമായോ ? അടുത്തിടെ സൗമ്യ സംഭവം നടന്ന സ്ഥലത്ത് വേറൊരു പീഡനം നടന്നു. രണ്ടുപേർ ഒരു പെണ്കുട്ടിയെ ജൂസിൽ മയക്കു മരുന്ന് കൊടുത്ത ശേഷം പീഡിപ്പിച്ചു. പെണ്കുട്ടി മരിച്ചില്ല. പരാധി കൊടുത്തപ്പോൾ പ്രതികൾ ഒളിവിൽ പോയി. പക്ഷെ ഒരു വാർത്തയും പ്രതിഷേധ ജാഥയോ വനിതാ വേദിയോ കമ്മിഷനോ ഒന്നും ഉണ്ടായില്ല. പെണ്കുട്ടിയുടെ മാനം പോയി പരിഹാസ കഥാപാത്രമായി എന്ന് മാത്രം. അതുകൊണ്ടാണ് പലരും പരതിപ്പെടാത്തത്. പ്രതികൾ ഇപ്പോൾ ഹീറോകൾ ആയി നടക്കുന്നു. ഈ സംഭവം നടന്നത് സാംസ്കാരിക തലസ്ഥാനമായ തൃശൂരിലെ കലാ കേന്ദ്രമായ വള്ളത്തോൾ നഗറിലും ആണെന്നോർക്കുമ്പോൾ ലജ്ജ തോന്നുന്നു. കുറ്റവാളികൾ എവിടെയും ഉണ്ടാവാം. എന്നാൽ ഇങ്ങനെയുള്ള സ്ഥലത്ത് പോലും പ്രതികരിക്കാൻ ആളില്ലലോ എന്നോർക്കുമ്പോൾ കഷ്ടം എന്നല്ലാതെ എന്ത് പറയാൻ?

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