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'I raised my voice on behalf of all the women in the audience'
What was meant to be an awareness campaign for women turned into a senseless, sexist tirade against them. Until a brave, young college girl stood up and booed the speaker into silence.
"Men, including me, need just 10 minutes to impregnate women. Then, the woman has to carry the baby in her womb for nine months. That is why the Holy Quran asks women to be calm and gentle. But women did not like that. They want to jump one step ahead of men. What they don't realise is that if they jump like men their uteruses will drop and it will need lakhs of rupees to cure them."
Revolting as it was, this piece of wisdom was handed down to young women at an awareness campaign in Thiruvananthapuram hosted by the Kerala government. Dr Rejith Kumar, the leader of the Moolya Bodhana yatra (moral value campaign) organised across the state recently by the education department, was holding forth on the perils of being too "bold" at the concluding event of the day. Surprisingly, thousands of students from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram obediently heard our Kumar, a biology professor, as he carried on his tirade last week at the Government College for Women. Until one girl raised her voice in protest.
Arya S, 21, found the nerve to boo him when he told the girls that smart boys can, easily, lure girls into relationships. "I stood up and booed him at that point, " says Arya, a BA final year student. Soon, the youngster walked out of the programme as a mark of protest against Kumar, who also ridiculed women who wear jeans and makeup.
"I can pardon her. The problem is with her DNA, "Kumar remarked, trying to sound magnanimous, as Arya walked out. What Kumar did not realise was that his nonsensical comments at a small, local college event would end up raising a media storm.
"I don't know why other girls didn't protest against the sexist speech. I really feel sorry for them. Most of the girls in the audience were students from a nearby school and of course our own college. I raised my voice on behalf of all the women there who were too inhibited to protest, " says Arya.
"After I walked out, some volunteers of the National Service Scheme, one of the organisers of the programme, reportedly approached Kumar and told him to stop before more women protested, " says the bright-eyed college girl.
Arya, who comes from Pathirappally in Alapuzha, says that right up to high school she was just another ordinary girl, terrified to raise her voice. "It is the Women's College which shaped my individuality in a way that allowed me to protest against injustices. "
The youngster says she has had to deal with lewd comments from male passengers each time she travels home from college. Till she found the courage to retaliate. "I slowly made up my mind to raise my voice against tormentors in the train, " she says.
Arya's father is an insurance agent and her mother a head nurse. "When the media reports first came out, they were scared. But now they support me," says Arya. She has had to face some flak within the college. "Most students and teachers congratulated me but some opposed my stand. It's okay. Individuals should be allowed to hold different opinions," she says.
Support for Arya is pouring in from various quarters, especially from political leaders and social activists. This has pushed the education department into conducting an inquiry into the issue. State education minister PK Abdu Rabb says, "I have decided to take action. The details will be revealed later," adding that he has watched the controversial video. The state human rights commission has also ordered a probe into the incident.
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