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A brief biography
Born: 1987, in Kochi
Her education, her teens
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)
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]) Home is Panambilly Nagar.
Her day job
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 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
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
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 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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: Muslim Jama’ath ostracises Rehana, family for hurting Hindu sentiments
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 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
Her attempt to visit the Sree Dharmasastha Temple at Sabarimala triggered immense backlash from all sides. But Rehana Fathima, 31, is unperturbed.
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 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.
…and several other pages on Malayalam cinema.
Countless pages on the communities and places of Kerala, e.g.
Floods in Kerala: a history, from ancient times to the present.