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A female politician in Kerala was recently prevented from speaking on the stage, with toxic cocktail of patriarchy and religion paving the way for this sexism. Examining the patriarchy in India’s most literate state.
When Kamarunissa Anwar, a politician belonging to the the Muslim League, recently went up on stage to address a public gathering, she was asked to step down, by the state secretary MC Mayin Haji. “Women do not address public gatherings. They are welcome to speak to a specific audience like a delegation, but must not address public gatherings,” he said. He further added that it wasn’t in the league’s tradition for women to speak to men.
The state of Kerala boasts of a high literacy rate and low female foeticide. With a rich heritage and the historical presence of a matrilineal society among some communities, it carries the image of being a woman-friendly state. But is this the reality or, is there an entirely different scenario?
While women’s education is valued in the state, they very often fail to get the same status as their male counterparts. It is patriarchy that controls life in Kerala. Grandiose marriages and the practice of dowry are rampant in society. The pressures of these practices fall on young girls and their parents, with numerous reports of dowry abuse being reported across the state.
The 1996 Suryanelli rape case, where a young girl of 16 was kidnapped and subsequently gang raped speaks volumes on justice, safety and the issue of women’s rights. Despite a Sessions Court finding 35 of the 39 guilty, the High Court of Kerala acquitted 7 of the 35 in the year 2015. The political scene in the state is no different. Out of around 140 Members of the Legislative Assembly in Kerala, only eight are women. Certain political parties are without any female representatives too.
Despite the Indian constitution granting women equal rights to men, the strong presence of patriarchy in many societies conditions a woman to make her believe that she is not on par with men. And education alone cannot change this deep rooted patriarchy in the society. Where offences such as rapes and sexual abuse are often used as a means to establish that women indeed are the weaker gender, we need stricter laws and a fair justice system to combat it.
However, laws are redundant without an element of social responsibility. Changes are required at the grassroots level, by raising generations ahead the right way, inculcating values that women are as equal and deserve the same respect and opportunity. Perceptions in society need to change in consonance with what our constitution guarantees.
Until then, the state of Kerala would remain as yet another example of an educated yet patriarchal society that we live in.
Top image courtesy NDTV.com video