This Unique Anti-Rape Protest by Women in India Has Shocked Kerala.
A group of women created a furore in India’s southern state of Kerala when they stood in public, wrapped in banners with anti-rape messages on them. But what message got conveyed through their unique protest?
India is still coming to terms with the news of the rape and lynching of two teenage Dalit girls in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, last month. The graphic images of the bodies hanging from a tree were widely circulated both online and offline heightening outrage and controversy around the incident.
The family of the two girls, who were cousins, alleged that men from the Yadav community (who are higher in the order of the Indian caste system vis-a-vis Dalits but are themselves classified under ‘Other Backward Castes’ or OBCs in many states) brutally raped the two girls when the two had gone to the fields to relieve themselves as they did not have a toilet in their home. Afterwards, they were hanged from a tree, which is where they were discovered the next morning.
Farah Naqvi, an activist working on public policy for rights of the most marginalized, wrote an op-ed in The Hindu newspaper, where she pointed out why lynching is done in societies.
these hangings were part of a public drum-beating semiotic of power; unspoken racial social laws enforced by terror.
While there were candlelight vigils, massive outpouring of sympathies and protests for the Delhi rape victim, most of the citizen voices have been strangely silent despite the many instances of rape that have come to light across the country since then.This incident too would have perhaps faded to the background, as is seen all the time when rape happens to Dalit women in India’s villages. However this time, since the photographs were widely circulated on social media (even though their circulation led to controversy) it jolted some from their slumber.
The sounds of the deafening silence, reverberated through Kerala as well, forcing people to question this overall lack of public outcry after this incident.
Rupesh Kumar, a filmmaker and a Dalit activist, asks about the silence of the media and of the society.
Are the candle shops closed? Or did an earthquake happen in Delhi? Or someone choked you? Your front pages were leased for something else? I am sure those are the reasons why there is this silence about the dalit women and I am sure it is not because they are Dalit. Only when it suits you, how disgustingly the word humanity is used.
A group of women, angry that nothing has been done yet, held a protest in the city of Ernakulam in Kerala, covering themselves with banners that were in tri-colors symbolizing the Indian flag. The ‘sthreekoottayma’ group that consisted of a small group of women, arranged this protest event.
People in Kerala were shocked to see women protesting by standing in the open wrapped in banners that left their shoulders and legs bare. Unfortunately, instead of mobilizing large-scale support for the case of the Dalit teenage girls, this unique act of protest was what caught eyeballs and was widely talked about. The police even arrested the protestors for indecent exposure.
Thasni Banu, who took part in the protest had this to explain.
We used our bodies to protest against people who are using women’s bodies as a political weapon. Without hearing our voices of protests and slogans, without understanding the apolitical climate which is permeating in the society, people are more worried about our bare shoulders and legs.
To those people who still think female bodies are the reason for rape, we mock at all those people, in the name of those girls who were raped and lynched in Uttar Pradesh.