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Women from Kerala are protesting the Sabarimala verdict, their presence often validated by male family members, furthering women’s exclusion and perpetuating the ‘kulasthree’ stereotype.
Kerala has been witnessing large scale polarization with women at the forefront, following the Sabarimala verdict.
The Sabarimala temple has a story of gender discrimination, with women between the age of 10 and 50 barred entry into its premises. It is also one of the Ayyappa temples in the country that witnesses massive crowds of male pilgrims during the festivals. Following the Supreme Court verdict removing the ban, Kerala society has been churning out its deeply seated misogyny and caste-based divisive politics that had long been acting as an undercurrent, and shaping the collective sensibility of its people.
It is quite fascinating to watch the manner in which the Malayalee society has been responding to the verdict, following the government’s decision to adhere to the verdict and provide all facilities for women to visit the shrine when it opens for pilgrims on October 17th.
Following the verdict, Kerala has been the stage for protests against it, spearheaded by upper caste community organizations with a massive participation of women belonging to the upper castes. They are the stereotypes of the Kulasthree, the upper caste conservative female, the oft-used trope for Malayalee woman in literature, films and every other form of art. She is the preserver of culture, the super-woman who protects and nurtures her family, the light that brightens up the home, the angel in the house, the warrior who will fight for her family, her nation and of course, her deity’s celibacy.
Protest marches have these women in large numbers present, maintaining their ‘identity’ and speaking volumes through their attire and conduct. She is mostly seen in a saree, or in the traditional off-white kasavu saree, wearing a pious look with sandal paste on the forehead and chanting Ayyappa mantras loudly. Their presence is often validated by their male family members who are also part of these protest groups.
The exclusion of Dalit and other backward communities is striking. They have either preferred to remain silent or to speak in favour of the verdict. Here again, the absence of women welcoming the verdict speaks eloquently of the politics of misogyny that exploits women’s absence/presence in an issue that directly affects their inclusion/exclusion in the community.
It is quite depressing to observe these kulasthree women stereotypes walk and chant mantras along with their masters to ensure that they remain marginalised for being women, for being sexually active individuals, for being capable of giving birth, and willing t wait till they, according to men, have lost their sexual energies and are no longer a threat to the perverts around the world.
Image source: a still from the movie Ever Vivahitharayal
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