Rehana Fathima

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Rehana Fathima in King Jones' Eka (2018)

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A brief biography

Early life

Born: 1987, in Kochi

Her education, her teens

Rehana Fathima
Courtesy Jollywollywood

Rehana was brought up in an orthodox Muslim family and attended a madarassa. “I used to wear the hijab and do namaz five times a day,” she says. Things changed after her father died when she was in Class 12.

“We were just three women (including her mother and sister) in the house and after my father’s passing, and just about any man in the neighbourhood wanted to come home. They would come drunk or call after dark. I have lost count of the number of times I made a public ruckus but got no support,” she remembers with anger. Those experiences made her disillusioned with religion.

Complaints to the police and other agencies had no effect. Finally, she and Diya decided to lay a trap and draw out one man who had abused Rehana’s daughter in his posts. “My friend Diya convinced him to meet her, and he fell hook, line and sinker. He got off the train in Ernakulam and the police were waiting. Once we posted the news of the arrest, the other abusers vanished,” she says.

Rehana put herself through college while working. (Sudha Nambudiri & Afrah Ali | MEET KERALA’S TOPLESS FEMINIST | 2018-03-25 | The Times Of India)

Home is Panambilly Nagar.

Relationship status

Rehana Fathima

Rehana now lives with her filmmaker partner Manoj, their two daughters and his parents. Manoj has produced the art film, and her debut movie, Eka about intersex people. ([ The Times of India])

Her day job

Rehana Fathima
By Akhil Red Eyes photography

Rehana got her father’s job in the government-owned telecom, BSNL, after his death.

In most of 2018 she was a telecom technician working in the customer relations section at the Boat Jetty branch in Kochi. In October 2018 she was transferred to the telephone exchange at Palarivattom.

Her protests, her activism

Rehana Fathima’s shoot for Epic Movies

Rehana feels strongly about many issues and doesn’t hesitate to speak up on everything from education loan rackets to Kochi’s drinking water crisis. ([ The Times of India])

2014: Kiss of love

She’s also taken part in the Kiss of Love campaign against moral policing in 2014.

2016: Thrissur pulikali, topless, in body paint

Rehana Fathima in body paint
Courtesy Daily Reports
The photographer seems to be Pramod Atholi

She was among the first women to participate in the Thrissur pulikali, the traditional Onam tiger dance done by all-male troupes, in 2016. (See picture on this page.)

2018, March: watermelons

Rehana Fathima with her watermelons

When a male professor in Kerala described students’ breasts as watermelons and chided women for not covering up, Rehana Fathima was quick to sign up for the online protest against his comments. She posed bare-breasted with watermelons, and drew anger, support, shares, and Facebook’s equivalent of a rap on the knuckles — the account being suspended.

One of the circulated photographs was a half-naked Fathima covering her chest with two watermelons, an act she did to “make a point.” [Actually, she covered two points during that ‘act,’ and covered both most thoroughly.—Indpaedia]

A topless feminist

Rehana Fathima’s shoot for Epic Movies

Sudha Nambudiri & Afrah Ali | MEET KERALA’S TOPLESS FEMINIST | 2018-03-25 | The Times Of India

Rehana Fathima loves breaking stereotypes, whether it’s taking off the hijab, playing an intersex person in a movie or posing naked with watermelons to make a statement about how women own their body

To the 31-year-old government employee, mother-of-two, model and activist from Kochi, plethora of reactions is one she’s used to. “I don’t understand why people make such hue and cry about a woman’s body,” says Rehana. “I wanted to question the restrictions regarding a woman baring her body,” she says. “Men and women are held to different standards.”

It’s not the only protest she’s been part of.

Rehana Fathima
Oneindia Malayalam

Dressed in a peach-coloured shirt and faded jeans, Rehana says, “I don’t think anyone just decides to be a revolutionary or a rebel one fine morning. Often, it’s their experiences that drive them to be one.”

Rehana Fathima, Kerala’s Topless Feminist, in King Jones' Eka (2018)
You might have to tilt your screen to view this screenshot.

Though she’d always questioned conservatism, it was the chauvinism on social media that pushed her to speak out. When she posted a photo of herself and her family at a picnic, she was shocked to see abusive comments about her clothing — shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt — and character. “My kids and my partner were also in the pic and he was shirtless, but nobody had any issue. There were threats too, and it got me thinking.”

Rehana Fathima
Oneindia Malayalam

She responded by posting a photograph of herself in a bikini. “The more you pay heed to regressive comments, the more freedom is chained. It’s my body and I have the right to wear what I want,” she says. Or not wear anything at all, as she has done for her debut film, Eka, which is about an intersex person. In interviews, she’s spoken about her nude scene and how she thought of it as something natural. In fact, to make her feel comfortable, the crew shed their clothes too.

Rehana Fathima in Goa in 2015

Since her Facebook wall is her sounding board against orthodoxy and patriarchy, it isn’t surprising that Rehana has gangs of trolls after her. But she doesn’t just block the abuser on social media and forget about it. “Once a group of men from north Kerala went on an abusive spree against my friend Diya Sana and I. Neither of us was ready to back down. We asked them to meet us, but they wouldn’t,” she says.

Rehana Fathima in Goa in 2015
Erum Puleem Media

“Intersex people — those born with ambiguous genitals because of genetic glitches or hormone problems — are a minority among minorities. We made the film to throw light on the community and build a conversation around the subject,” she says.

“I don’t understand why people make such hue and cry about a woman’s body...I wanted to question the restrictions regarding a woman baring her body,” says Rehana Fathima
Part of her bare body is seen here, in a screenshot from King Jones' Eka (2018)
You might have to tilt your screen to view this screenshot.

The movie, which has been sent to various film festivals, is yet to be screened in Kerala. “We don’t know how the censors will treat it,” she says.

2018: Sabarimala

2018: Muslim Jama’ath ostracises Rehana, family for hurting Hindu sentiments

Muslim body expels activist Rehana | 21 Oct 2108 | The Times of India

The Kerala Muslim Jama’ath Council on Saturday ostracised activist Rehana Fathima from the community for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. The Jama’ath council has also asked the Ernakulam Central Muslim Jama’ath to expel Fathima and her family from the Mahallu, council president A Pookunju said. Fathima had reached within hailing distance of the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple under on Friday, and were prevented from proceeding by protesters.

“She has no right to use a Muslim name,” Pookunju said. Police also registered a case against her for hurting religious sentiments by posting photos on social media. TNN

BSNL Transfers Woman Who Almost Made It To Sabarimala Shrine

Rehana the pilgrim
ANI tweet

Press Trust of India October 24, 2018

Rehana Fathima a telecom technician has been transferred to Palarivattom

In a protest march, Sabarimala Karma Samithi [sought] her expulsion

Activist Rehana Fathima, a BSNL employee who had made an attempt to enter the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, has been transferred to the Palarivattom telephone exchange in the city where public contact is not required, sources said.

However, the sources said she has not committed dereliction of duty.

Sabarimala Karma Samithi on Tuesday organised a protest march to the Palarivattom BSNL office, seeking her expulsion.

The activist's house was allegedly vandalised by unidentified people while she was away trying to climb the holy hills on Friday last.

She made a failed attempt to reach the temple with heavy police protection.

The attackers reached Fathima's house in Panambilly Nagar while she was climbing the hills.

Fathima was among the two women who had reached the hilltop, but had to return before reaching the sanctum sanctorum following massive protests by Ayyappa devotees.

A case has been registered by police in Pathanamthitta against the activist for hurting religious sentiments.

Sanitary napkin: false allegations

Sudha.Nambudiri | Sabarimala: Unfazed by ire from Hindus & Muslims, Fathima says her fight to go on | 27 Oct 2018| The Times of India

Her attempt to visit the Sree Dharmasastha Temple at Sabarimala triggered immense backlash from all sides. But Rehana Fathima, 31, is unperturbed.

Rehana Fathima
Courtesy Jollywollywood

This has come after miscreants vandalised her quarters at Panampilly Nagar last week, on the same day she had trekked up 500 metres from the hill shrine, accompanied by a posse of 80 policemen. Another woman, Kavitha Jakkala, a television reporter from Hyderabad, too, was with her.

Ever since her attempted temple visit, she has been taking flak from both Hindus and Muslims. While Hindu’s accused her of “betraying the trust and faith” of thousands, the Kerala Muslim Jama’ath Council expelled her from the community for hurting religious sentiments.

Not to be left behind, Facebook too joined the anti-Fathima bandwagon and suspended her account based on a complaint. [A second time? They had done so in March 2018 as well.]

“There are lots of rumours being circulated with all kinds of stories including one that I carried a sanitary napkin in my irumudikettu (a cloth bag with two compartments containing puja articles). I don’t know its origin but one TV reporter asked me whether I came as a devotee and was a believer. I said, define a believer, and then I will tell you if I am one. Later, they asked me what was in the irumudikettu and I told them it contained all the items that are to be carried by a Sabarimala pilgrim.”

Rehana is now under police protection at her home because of the threats she has been receiving after her trek took a communal colour. Her house was ransacked and her kids’ school uniforms were smeared with cow-dung paste and their toys destroyed. “My children were very upset when they saw what had happened. But they are recovering.”

Fathima arrested for showing her knee in a devotee’s attire

Fathima shows her knee and calves while in a devotee’s attire

Kerala activist arrested over Sabarimala post 28 Nov 2018 | The Times of India

Fathima Accused Of Hurting Religious Sentiments

Rehana Fathima was arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments on social media.

A police team from Pathanamthitta arrested Fathima from the BSNL office Palarivattom in Kochi, where she works, around 1 pm. The BSNL Ernakulam regional office later said she had been suspended with immediate effect, pending investigation.

The complaint was filed by BJP leader R Radhakrishna Menon.

Her partner Manoj Sreedharan said Fathima , “She had only posted a picture of herself in a devotee’s attire on social media. People who filed the complaint claimed her knee was seen in the picture and this hurt religious sentiments. I don’t understand how a photo of a woman showing her knee would be anti-religious in a country where naked saints are worshipped,” he said.

2021: SC relaxes HC’s ‘complete’ gag on Kerala activist


The Supreme Court on Thursday relaxed the ‘complete’ gag order passed against controversial activist Rehana Fathmi by the Kerala high court but allowed continuation of the restraint order for her not to make, share, or forward any comment, which may affect religious sentiments of any community.

Agreeing to hear her plea against the HC’s gag order, a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman issued notice on her appeal and stayed one of the conditions of the HC as per which she was restrained to express her views in any form through any media. The court said the condition amounted to a complete gag order and stayed it.

The HC while imposing bail conditions in a case lodged against her for hurting religious sentiments, had on November 23 said, “Till the trial is over, the accused shall not directly, indirectly or through any other person publish, transmit, share, upload or disseminate or publish any material or any of her comments through any visual and electronic media, open to public.” The apex court stayed this condition.

The Supreme Court, however, said other condition imposed by the HC will continue. The other condition, imposed by HC said, “She shall not directly or indirectly or through any other person, through print, visual or other electronic media make, share, forward, disseminate or propagate any comment, which may affect or has the propensity to affect the religious feelings or sentiments of any community or group of society.”

2023: Body-painting/ POCSO case: Kerala HC discharges Fathima

Nisha Anand ‘Nudity not always linked to obscenity’: High Court discharges Kerala woman/ Jun 06, 2023

The case pertained to Rehana Fathima, a woman's right activist charged for allowing her children to paint her semi-nude body.

In a relief for a woman's right activist, Rehana Fathima, who was facing charges under a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) case for allowing her children paint her semi-nude body, the Kerala High Court ruled that her act cannot be characterised as a real or simulated sexual act and said that the society’s default view that the naked upper body of the female is sexualised in all contexts is unfair and discriminatory.

"The right of a woman to make autonomous decisions about her body is at the very core of her fundamental right to equality and privacy. It also falls within the realm of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution," the court said.

The case

Fathima was charged under POCSO and Juvenile Justice and the Information Technology (IT) Acts for circulating a video, in which her minor children were seen painting on her semi-nude body. Justice Kauser Edappagath discharged the 33-year-old activist from the case, citing that it was "harsh" to term such an "innocent artistic expression" as a usage of a child in a real or simulated sexual act and that it did not amount to child pornography.

The High Court’s ruling came on Fathima's appeal seeking dismissal of the ongoing case after a trial court rejected it. In her appeal, Fathima contended that the act was meant as a political statement since the naked upper body of the women is sexualised in all contexts, while it is not the case for men. The court agreed with her contention and noted that Fathima’s intention behind the circulation of the video was to “expose this double standard prevailing in society."

See also

Rehana Fathima
Courtesy Jollywollywood
Rehana Fathima in Eka

Box office records of Malayalam films

Box office records of Malayalam films, 2016

Box office records of Malayalam films, 2017

Malayalam cinema: 2010 onwards

Dileep (Gopalakrishnan Pillai)

Bhavana (Karthika Menon)

Priya Prakash Varrier

Rehana Fathima

…and several other pages on Malayalam cinema.

Box office records of Hindi-Urdu films

...and also

Countless pages on the communities and places of Kerala, e.g.

Floods in Kerala: a history, from ancient times to the present.

Cochin – The Dutch Portuguese and Jewish Influences

Jew: South India


Nair/ Nayar

Nambūtiri Brāhman

Syrian Christian

…and also

Rehana Fathima, courtesy Epic Image

Archana Paneru

Gehana Vasisth

Protima Bedi

Rehana Fathima

Qandeel Baloch

Sunny Leone

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