An activist who was arrested for an allegedly obscene video that depicted her children painting on her naked body has been denied anticipatory bail, causing outrage on social media.
A case was filed against activist Rehana Fathima in June after she posted a video of her minor son and daughter painting on her semi-nude body on YouTube. The video was intended to express the control and freedom women should be allowed to exert on their own bodies.
She used the hashtag BodyArt and Politics and wrote: “No child who has seen his own mother’s nakedness and body can abuse the female body."
Following the video that went viral and attracted widespread outrage, two complaints were filed at different police stations against and the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights had asked the police to register a case against her under POCSO.
Following the complaint, she had filed an anticipatory bail plea in the High Court which was rejected in July. Expressing shock at the video, the Court observed that Fathima should not have used her children to make her point.
“Why do you do all this? You might be an activist but why do this? What kind of nonsense is this? It is obscenity clearly which you are spreading. It will leave the society in a very bad taste," Kerala HC said.
Fathima has since surrendered to cops. Following the incident, several voices have taken to social media to call out the Court’s decision.
“The interesting case of #RehanaFathima makes me question my own prejudices. If a father asked his children to paint his chest, that would be art! But if a mother does the same, that’s obscene and is child abuse?" a user asked. “When a mother goes semi nude to feed her baby, that is considered fine. But when she normalize going semi nude to become an art piece of their children, that is considered taboo," another added.
The interesting case of #RehanaFathima makes me question my own prejudices. If a father asked his children to paint his chest, that would be art! But if a mother does the same, that’s obscene and is child abuse? Oh, the deep-seated dichotomies of our patriarchal minds. https://t.co/hovvQqUx9I— mansi b 🐝 (@idli_idol) August 7, 2020
When a mother goes semi nude to feed her baby, that is considered fine. But when she normalize going semi nude to become an art piece of their children, that is considered taboo.#RehanaFathima— Yash Panchal (@YashSilvery) August 7, 2020
Rehana Fathima, a woman arrested for letting her kids paint her semi nude body, meanwhile, men roam around in streets their underwear, while harassing underaged girls and go unpunished. 👍— Kukkur-Daas (@aman_of_culture) August 9, 2020
lmao not surprised that a MALE judge denied Rehana Fathima bail because women please hide your bodies unless it is used for male gratification or as a birthing factory— Anusha Subramanian (@Anusha0712) August 7, 2020
Despite the criticism, this is not the first time the activist has made headlines for controversial demonstrations.
A former BSNL employee, Fathima became a household name after she unsuccessfully tried to enter the Sabarimala temple in black clothes after the Kerala HC granted permission women of menstruating age entry into the temple premises, despite heavy local outrage. She was arrested in November for causing religious unrest, which she claimed was the reason BSNL used to fire her from her job.
Before that, Fathima had gone viral on social media after she posted a photo of herself wearing nothing but two watermelon cups that she used to hide her torso. The image was intended to express outrage against a Kerala professor’s sexist comments when he compared a student’s breasts to “sliced watermelons". The image went viral for all the wrong reasons and resulted in wide-scale slut-shaming.
Fathima has often challenged gender roles in Kerala, be it with her videos performing traditionally male dances such as “Thrissur puli kali" and Tiger Onam. She was even part of the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement in 2014 against moral policing in Kerala.
As of now, Fathima is facing charges under Sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and under Section 67B(d) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as well as the Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The video has been deemed as having shown children in indecent or obscene light.
In her defence, the activist has said that the video was not pornographic and that her nudity did not represent the nudity of the children.