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Sabarimala and #MeToo: Cases of sexual abuse of marginalised women remain largely "unaddressed"

By Sheshu Babu*
This is a rare phase in history where women are fearlessly voicing their rights despite the obstacles raised by male chauvinists. While many people are applauding the movements some are either deriding or expressing some apprehensions. The movements have not only brought out tales of exploitation of women but also exposed caste contradiction and communal discrimination to the fore.
As the movements progressed, fragmentation in society also became evident.
According to a report, a 42 year-old woman from Kollam district returned from the base camp without visiting the temple after the police said that it would be difficult to give escort due to inclement weather(?).
The woman, SP Manju, who was associated with the Kerala Dalit Maha Foundation, left Pamba but said that she has not abandoned her attempt to enter the temple as Supreme Court has given permission to enter the temple for women of all ages.
The reason cited by police may indicate bias and discrimination against Dalit women. Rain may be a genuine cause but if the authorities feel that they should sincerely try, rains may not pose much difficulty. State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran stating that the government cannot provide protection to 'activists who come to prove their power in Sabarimala' , further strengthens the notion that Dalit women face discrimination even on the entry of the temple. It is regrettable that there has been very little condemnation of the matter by upper caste women. The Sabarimala movement may not have succeeded on the caste front. This needs to be addressed.
A 31 year old engineer from BSNL, Rehana Fatima who attempted to climb has been transferred from Cochin to Ravipuram. The company also started internal investigation. Though she claimed that it was a request transfer, some reports in media like the New Indian Express said it was a punitive measure. Her house has been reported to be broken. Police have registered a case on her social media posts citing them as ' communally divisive'.
Here too, there has been very little reaction from other women or feminist organizations or activists. The communal divide is palpably visible, unfortunately.

MeToo and elite

While many cases of sexual abuse have been courageously disclosed by women, the cases of scores of Adivasi women or marginalised women remain largely unaddressed. Political leaders, police or army personnel involved in rapes, molestation and atrocities are still getting away with impunity especially in states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Manipur. These poor women do not have accessibility to social media platforms like Facebook to air their sufferings. Their woes have not been taken up.
Both the movements have exposed many other contradictions that exist in society. The problem is deeper than just exploitation of women. A deeper malice prevails which must be taken into account. The present protests against male hegemony should also include annihilation of caste and religious and social discrimination among women. They should unite and make the movements successful in all respects. They should not allow divisive fundamentalist forces to weaken their unity and dissipate the power of activism built up so courageously against all odds.
Some undesirable forces are trying to wreck the movements from within by pitting women against women. Hence, all women should be alert to such malicious powers and thwart their taking control. As Frances Hargraves expressed  "...for many women, including those living in stigmatized Dalit ( untouchable) communities in postcolonial India, this sort of platform remains largely unavailable... Raising awareness of the historical context behind contemporary discrimination is vital. However, more needs to be done to make international women's movements and the contemporary human rights discourse inclusive for those facing violence and persecution under vastly different circumstances."
One hopes the movements address the social contradictions and achieve higher levels of women empowerment and work towards dismantling male hegemony and brutal exploitation as well as restrictions imposed in matters like entering temples or places of prayers for women irrespective of castes or religion.
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*The writer from everywhere and anywhere supports equality for all

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