The new woman

The Kerala woman is evolving: she reports sexual crimes against her and refuses to be stigmatised.

The young actor reports to the police her abduction and sexual assault. Another one calls off her wedding after a dowry demand. A young girl gives it back to abusive trolls who slut-shamed her for her comments on the 14 second stare rule! Yet another one thumps her nose at the myopic society that distorted a picture of her kissing her grandfather as porn! And to cap it all, a young couple live-streams on Facebook moral policing by police. These women are the face of an emerging group of women who have no inhibitions in expressing their feelings on a wide range of issues such as sexuality, relationships, career or politics. She wants the patronising voices of patriarchy to take a good hard look at her while she engages in questioning, dissecting, fighting and standing her ground. Arathy S.A, the woman who was the target of moral policing, talks about this episode, “We were sitting in the Museum garden when pink police personnel approached and started questioning us. Our decision to live-stream this whole episode was as much in our defence that we were not indulging in anything wrong as much as proof for society.”

The three-minute video which went viral shows Arathy and her friend Vishnu constantly asking the police how their behaviour was objectionable and what crime they had committed. The couple was taken to the police station and Arathy continues, “They asked us if we were married. I asked if it is OK if we were married, and they said yes! We felt the whole episode was an infringement on our privacy and a case of moral policing.” Arathy is amongst the new breed of women who chose to react and even question authority. She admits to being scared of societal reactions but staunchly says, “It is only when women speak up and retaliate, changes will happen!” There is a definite shift in societal and moral perceptions amongst the women of today who dare to come out openly and speak about the sexual abuse they have encountered or have the guts to report atrocities committed against them or question any wrongdoing. Rape or assault is no longer something shameful but a dishonour to her perpetrators.

Arathy S.AArathy S.A

Reshma Sasidharan, a teacher from Kannur, opines, “A girl who was the victim of moral policing and assault by some goondas in Kollam did not hide, but chose to describe the assault she was subjected to and took the legal route to gain justice. Some years ago, such a reaction from women would be unthinkable, but not anymore. If more women had reported and reacted to such incidents in the past, perhaps such assaults would not have recurred.” She believes that though discussions on news channels and social media come in for flak from some quarters, it is the same discussions that positively influence the women to react to negative situations. “The woman is changing; she does not want to be perceived as a sex object. She also believes that no man in this patriarchal society has the power to destroy her life by outraging her modesty. In the event of something untoward happening, she is ready to seek recourse in the law and judiciary and hold her head high in society and live a normal life,” she states.

Recently, the statement by a leading male actor who spoke of ‘protecting’ women raised the hackles of many of the female population who univocally clamour that a woman does not want the protection of a man, thank you, but demands that the woman be treated as an equal. The woman of today is aware of her rights and not shy to raise her voice against injustice. She is conscious of her worth and has the decision-making power. Misogyny is a word she loathes. No doubt, exposure and education are aiding this shift, which is very visible in urban areas though it has been percolating to the rural areas as well.

“Women choose to lodge a police complaint after a crime only because she has definite perceptions of her body and honour. She does not want to shy away and keep quiet about the brutality she suffered fearing loss of reputation or honour. Such women who come out and speak are very brave because lots of unreported incidents have happened. Rape should not be perceived as a lifelong stigma and what is sometimes sad is the lack of support from family or workplace to women who have undergone such trauma.” opines actor Sajitha Madathil. She adds that the present breed of women have clarity of thought and knows the difference between rape and assault. She will take a stand and is not bothered about what society or her parents will say. The women are stronger now which is also because of their financial independence which was not the case earlier. Sajitha also mentions that the concept of men protecting women came about because they cannot see women as equals.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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