Kerala-based activist Rehana Fatima on Monday got relief in a POCSO case as the High Court acquitted her that the right to autonomy over her body is often denied to the fairer sex and they are harassed, discriminated against, isolated and abused. To make choices about their bodies and lives.
In 2020, a video of Fatima went viral, showing her partially naked and with drawings on her body by her underage children. Subsequently, he was arrested and his bail pleas were repeatedly rejected.
Who is Rehana Fatima?
1. In her appeal to the Kerala High Court, Rehana Fatima asserted that body painting is meant as a political statement against society’s default view that the female nude upper body is sexual in all contexts, whereas the nude male upper body is not treated as this default sexuality.
2. Earlier, the woman was also booked by the police in Pathanamthitta district under the Information Technology Act and the Juvenile Justice Act based on a complaint filed by BJP OBC Morcha leader AV Arun Prakash.
3. Fatima was in the news and was targeted by certain groups for trying to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala after the Supreme Court allowed women of menstrual age to do so.
4. But Fatima is not in the headlines for the first time. In 2014, she participated in the controversial ‘Kiss of Love’ protest in Kochi against moral policing with her partner Manoj K Sridhar.
5. Earlier, she tried to challenge the bastion of male supremacy by participating in the annual Onam tiger dance (Pulikali), a popular event in Thrissur that usually sees an all-male cast.
6. Fatima was born into an orthodox Muslim family that required her to attend classes at a madrasa and pray five times a day. But after her father’s death, Fatima says her perception of religion changed dramatically.
What is the Kerala High Court saying?
1. While acquitting Fatima, Kerala High Court Justice Kausar Edappagath on Monday said from the charges against the 33-year-old worker, one could not infer that her children were used for any real or fake sexual act and that too for sexual gratification.
2. The court said she only allowed her children to use her body as a canvas to paint.
3. The judge said it was “harsh” to call such an “innocent artistic expression” the use of a child in a real or simulated sex act. “There is nothing to show that children have been used for pornography. There is no indication of sexuality in the video. Painting the naked body surface of a person, be it male or female, cannot be termed as sexual act,” the court said.
4. It also stated that the display of male upper body nudity is never considered obscene or indecent and is not sexual, but “a female body is not treated in the same way”.
5. The court added that there are some people who consider female nudity taboo and only for erotic purposes and the motive behind the video circulated by Fatima was to “expose this double standard prevailing in the society”. “Nudity should not be tied to sexuality. Showing the top of a woman’s naked body should not be considered inherently sexual. Therefore, the depiction of a woman’s naked body cannot be said to be obscene, indecent, or sexual,” Justice Edappagath said.
(with input from agencies)