‘Activist’ Rehana Fathima caused widespread outrage when she shared a video on YouTube where her children could be seen painting on nude upper-body. Following the outrage, a case under POCSO was registered against her. In connection to the matter, The Wire has published an article on the 29th of July where it is claimed that the perverse actions of the activist ought to be celebrated and not punished.
Author V. Venkatesan, formerly a senior associate editor at Frontline, claimed that “her activism has the potential to challenge not only patriarchal stereotypes prevalent in conservative Kerala and elsewhere, but also the judicial attitude towards allegations of obscenity.”
In her defence, Venkatesan wrote, “She contends that she only allowed her body to be used as a canvas by her children to paint on, and only perverts would be aroused to sexual desire by seeing the nature of the work. Her message accompanying the uploaded edited video makes it clear that she intended to normalise the female form for her children and not allow distorted ideas of sexualisation to pervade their minds.”
Throughout the article, the author goes to great length to justify the brand of activism espoused by Rehana Fathima. The author relied on the statements made by the activist to claim that the sole intention of the activist was to further the cause of gender equality without pondering to elaborate on whether children should be made to engage in morally questionable actions at such a young age.
Venkatesan said further, “In Kerala, body painting on men is an accepted tradition during Pulikali festivals in Thrissur. When Theyyam and such other rituals are performed at the temple, painting is conducted on the bodies of male artists. If these acts are not assumed to be obscene or indecent, it is not clear why a similar act performed by a woman should be so considered, merely because she happens to be a woman. Fathima has also participated as the only female in the male-only performance at Pulikali at Thrissur in order to convey her message of gender equality.”
The Wire also expressed “hope” that the Supreme Court will “render justice to Rehana Fathima”. Rehana Fathima had been booked under the Juvenile Justice Act and the section 67 of the Information Technology Act (Electronically transmitting sexually explicit content) for non-bailable offences by the Thiruvalla police of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala. She was later denied anticipatory bail by the Kerala High Court.
Rehana Fathima, the controversial ultra-left wing activist who has attempted to desecrate the Sabarimala Temple in the past, on June 19 took to her YouTube channel to post a 2:00 minute video where she is seen lying on bed wearing only a pair of red shorts, while her children attempt to paint on her naked torso. She also uploaded the same on her Facebook page with hashtag #BodyArtPolitics.
Past Transgressions of Rehana Fathima
Rehana Fathima was sacked from her job in May 2020 after BSNL authorities after a probe found that her Facebook messages had incited communal tension and she had violated service rules. For the previous 18 months, she was under suspension after BSNL had received complaints from the public about her abusive pictures and videos, which had hurt religious sentiments.
In 2018, the Pathanamthitta police had registered a case against activist Rehana Fathima against a complaint filed by Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samithi for putting up social media posts that were “communally divisive” in nature. The self-proclaimed activist was also ‘expelled‘ from the Muslim community by the Kerala Muslim Jama’ath Council for her activities.
A model of sorts in the past, Fathima has been a part of the ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign in Kochi in 2014 against the purported moral policing. Rehana Fathima was also convicted in a cheque-fraud case and awarded a fine of Rs. 2.1 lakh and one day of imprisonment in the year 2014.