Nikhila V and Sreeshna Prasad K
Gender discrimination is a global phenomenon. Women had always been and still continue to be the face of oppression for no reason other than her/their gender. The causes and consequences may vary from country to country, but the discrimination against women is constant. Women are in a global struggle to aspire their dreams. The social and cultural norms have defined specific gender roles for men and women. Men are often identified as masculine and action-oriented whereas women are looked upon as emotional, supporting and in non-functional roles. Gender stereotypes are based on certain traits, roles, physical characteristics and cognitive abilities. It is a matter of curious feeling to analyse the controversial issues from a feminine perspective. There is an urgent need for comprehensive discussions and debates on the instrumentalization of sexual politics. Here, we are re-examining some controversial cases to show the other side of the issue.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal case marked massive protests and outrage in Kerala. The priest was accused of sexually abusing a nun multiple times over two years. A group of sisters came to the front line to mark their protest and share their experiences inside the nunnery. Supports reached them from various corners and the issue was wildly discussed. The church missionaries tried their utmost to prove his innocence but the police filed a case against him. After a few days trial, the court acquitted him. Franco’s case is one of the thousands of sexual harassments against the catholic clergy. The patriarchal system has a brutal history of covering up sexual harassment cases in favour of the male members, and this was yet again proved in this case also. Instead of providing support to the survivor, they took actions against the nuns. The church and concerned authorities didn’t take any action against the priest initially. There are many instances where religious organizations tries to cover up these kinds of cases. Often, it’s our gender that will decide how and in what way we should behave in a public as well as a private space. This kind of discrimination instrumentalizes sexual politics and women will be criminalized on the basis of the public appearance. They are often failed by the law, police forces, public and open streets, jobs they are associated with and probably their own home. Gender paradox becomes a term that talks about the position and situation of women in the contemporary patriarchal landscape.
Sisters who protested against the rape- accused, invited the wrath of the church and the society, and later expelled from the church. One of the expelled nuns, Sr. Lucy Kalappura has recently published her memoir, “In the Name of Christ” which narrates her experiences, the sexual abuse and harassment faced by nuns, homosexuality among the priests and nuns, misuse of authority and power held by priests, the sexual relationship between priest and nuns and so on. This personal narrative helped the common public to understand the exploitation inside a religious system. She has also shared several instances from her life and experiences of other nuns. Due to the socially accepted responsibilities and behaviours linked to one’s gender, the nun faced severe criticism for writing this kind of work. It’s disturbing to see that we as a society are trying to uphold male chauvinism over feminism and trying to oppress and humiliate women through multi-dimensional ways.
There are several other examples to prove how the system helps the male and criminalize female. Looking at the controversial Malayalam actress assault case, the sentence is proved to be the truth. Without the political, intellectual and emotional support of WCC, the case would have gone cold by now. In 2017, one of the top Malayalam actresses was abducted, molested and photographed in a moving car. It was allegedly planned by a very popular Malayalam actor as a form of revenge against his female counterpart. After five years, the survivor has shared a post on her difficult journey from being a victim to becoming a survivor. She has also conveyed her thanks to everyone who supported her during the tough time. Her post appeared right after the case got registered against the actor and five others for allegedly threatening the investigation officer.
As usual, the general public continues to blame the survivor. Five years ago the actress was forced to leave the Malayalam film industry to save herself from cyber bullying. The A.M.M.A (Association of Malayalam Movie Actors) organisation instead of supporting the survivor had isolated her. Majority of the actors conducted big press meetings and vowed their support only to change the lanes soon after. After the actor was accused, he received massive support from the public, and returned back in full glory after 8 months in the prison, with new movie offers and better public image. With the survivor breaking her silence and more evidence coming out, there is a change in the tide. There is a shift in favour of the survivor from the general public. But the case is still going on without any resolution and the accused is still in the making of films.. While things do look better, a lot of witnesses have changed their opinion in favour of the accused. Hopefully, justice will be delivered to the actresses for the crimes committed against her.
The survivor’s post received a monumental reaction from the Malayalam film industry as they unified to show their support. Their influence and involvement attracted the public interest. The WCC organisation, which was founded due to this issue, also expressed their support and praised the actress for speaking out. The organisation talked about the support by the various A-list celebrities, many of whom had previously sided with the accused or remained silent on the issue. They raise serious concerns whether this support will bring any new changes in the way actresses are treated and also if this will continue in the future too. Mohanlal, who is the new President of A.M.M.A was the one who had reinstated the accused into the organisation. Actions like these continue to show the naked truth behind the “support”.
With the highest literacy rate and the gender ratio in favour of women, Kerala is considered as an ideal place to live in for a woman. In theory it is better than most other states, but in reality, it’s a whole different story. The cases on assault and rape against women are never ending. The support they receive have always been drowned out by the hate and mistrust of the patriarchal society.