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20121102

Of Sunanda Pushkar, Mallus and the Sexual escapades



The paradoxical malayali mindset and related behavioural aberrations were demonstrated in full media glare recently in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram.  A 19 year old young man made indecent advances to the 50 year old wife of a newly sworn in Union Minister when the jubilant couple were surrounded by hundreds of followers and onlookers. Thankfully, and to the molester’s utter misfortune, the elegant non-Keralite lady managed to make her right hand freed from commotion, to hit at him in rage.

In an interview later to a national TV Channel she said:



  ‘Men feel that in such mob situations they can take advantage of the body of the women and they will grope in unwanted places. In such circumstances, men feel they have a right to abuse or hurt women. Some people told me I shouldn’t have hit him. The ‘politically correct’ thing would have been to smile and grin and bear it. And that’s what our women have been put through for centuries. I forgave him after he profusely apologized for the offence.’

What a shame for  Keralites and  malayali men particularly. Also, what a great lesson she has given to all women who live in and visit Kerala. How many women who travel in public transports have not received such indecent advances from co-passengers or the staff? How many women have not experienced eve teasing on public roads? How many women have the guts to react like Sunanda Pushkar on such deliberate attempts by men? 

High rank in Molestation

Please update your General Knowledge.

 Kerala is on top not just for its highest literacy rate, life expectancy or lowest infant mortality rate, but for many other shameful achievements. 
  • Kerala ranked 8 among 35 States and Union Territories in India in the contribution to total crime against women in the country in the year 2011. 
  • Kerala is in the 3rd position in total number of molestation incidents in the country. 
  • It has also the ‘credit’ for getting the 3rd rank for total number of sexual harassment under section 509 of Indian Penal code.
  • Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram has all India 5th position among 88 major cities in the country for total number of molestations reported in 2011.  


(Number of molestation incidents for 2011, Kerala lost third position to Maharashtra for just 38 incidents)
Some more interesting data from the statistics of National Crime Records Bureau.

  •  Kerala got 3rd rank in incest (rape) and first rank in total number of rapes (incest) where victim is below 14 years. 
  • There is good performance in the area of molestation year after year. In 2010 it was 2939, and in 2011 there were 3756 molestation cases. Remember, thousands of cases go unreported every year. 
  • As per the statistics of Kerala Police, in the year 2012, upto September, there are 715 incidents of rape, 2798 cases of molestation (with capital city topping with 545 cases), 343 cases of eve teasing, out of 9758  total offences against women in Kerala. 
Yes, there is steady growth!

Kerala is one of the few places in the world where women outnumber men. For every 100 men, there are 109 women in Kerala.  Even globally, the sex ratio has been negative for a long time. In 2000, there were only 986 females for every 1,000 males in the world. More number of educated women means more incidents of harassment and molestation? What a paradox!

The incorrigible Mallu

The word ‘Mallu’ (a widely known nickname for a malayali) is a popular internet key word for any sort of sexually explicit literature, images, videos and movies. It is true that Pornography, a world-wide multibillion dollar industry caters to a large number of population since several centuries to fulfil non-intrusively their sexual urges. But what is intriguing is the predominant ‘mallu’ presence in the cyber space (See my article on ‘Mallu Web Culture’). Even movies and videos with erotic overtones are being named as ‘mallu stuff’ irrespective of any other  Indian language in which they are made. This is because of the unique historical background  of Malayalam movies. The directors of many Malayalam movies released in the 1980s and 1990s disseminated new definitions and conceptions for sexuality, eroticism and women. They created a new wave among youth based on misconceived notions about female sexual expectations, misplaced physical attributes of sensuality, and mistaken perception about marital relationships.  This resulted in creating sexual perversions among the youth of those times and impacted their attitude and approaches towards women. This attitudes and behavioural pattern got ingrained in Kerala Society.

The problem got aggravated in due course. In an outwardly conservative society, the double standards and pseudo morality resulted not in reduction of sexual crimes and perversions, but in radical increase in the incidents of molestation, sex scandals, organized sex rackets, sexual harassment etc. Women in Kerala cannot travel alone in public transports or walk alone on the roads after evening hours. Even when they are accompanied by men, they are not spared of the lecherous eyes of men of all ages.

Will giving a vent is a solution?

Noted Malayalam writer Paul Zacharia told once in an interview to my friend  T.S. Sreenivasa Raghavan that ‘a place where one can have healthy sex without fear or anxiety would be welcome’.  It is an absolutely ‘out of the box’ proposition for the conservative Kerala. And morally unacceptable too. But would this be like a ‘placebo’ as believed by Zacharia? Will this save the men suffering from sexual suppression and repression and will curtail the sociopathic behaviour of sex maniacs?   Supporters of the above point towards the licensed service providers in many countries where men go and relieve their urges rather than peeping, leching  and pouncing on hapless ladies. Shall we think of adopting this as a therapeutic approach, without infringing on the moral principles?

Sunanda Pushkar could face it head on. But what about ordinary mortals? We need policy intervention more than the police intervention on this sociological malady. The reason is that, Kerala is more than a State; it is a state of mind!
(views are personal)                                                                                       Sibichen K Mathew

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25 comments:

  1. The write up gave a correct assessment of the all-pervasive sexual malaise of Kerala men.
    After living in north India for long, I have realized that the Kerala men are sex starved. They don’t treat the women respectfully (in all respects) and it is a crying shame. Many of the crimes against women, especially rapes, are not reported to the Police for the social stigma attached to it.
    Some time back when Arundhati Roy came to Kerala, she refused to attend a press conference. She seems to have said very bluntly ‘The journalists don’t look at my face but look at my breasts…’
    Women are also submissive and do not stand up to crimes against them by men. It is high time they show their spine.
    I feel that Sunanda Pushkar did the right thing in the given circumstances.

    Xavier PC

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    1. It is necessary to explore a sociological-therapeutical solution to the problem. I fully agree with Xavier's views. Thanks for the comments

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  2. Or may be it could be that the high literacy rate ensures higher reporting of crimes....

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    1. Yes, that can partly explain the reported figures as a comparison with national average. But it is a fact that frequency of unreported instances are much more common in Kerala as the 'literate' women quietly tolerate them.

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  3. Very truly said Sibi Sir. The out look of the people living in kerala needs a metamorphosis. I am waiting for a day where kerala is as safe as Mumbai.

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  4. Well, as they say, along with the geographical narrowing, as we go down South, the narrow mindedness of people becomes so evident. In Kerala, everything is a taboo. Sex is a taboo, speaking about sex is a taboo, even reporting sexual abuse or defending oneself of it is a taboo! Yes, I have handled myself this situation a few times in Kerala, in the buses. But though I shouted and yelled at them, standing and facing them, in a voice which the whole bus could hear, the passive looks on the fellow passengers, including women and the conductor, sent me the message that it is me, or no body else who will take care of myself.
    These people are sexual perverts, who are mentally sick. High literacy can't solve any problem. The idle minds becomes devil's workshop and in a state where people rarely work, all these dirty stuff will breed.That is why all kinds of crimes increase, making a hell out of God's own country.
    At the same time I would like to say that these types of people are plenty in Tamilnadu beaches (especially where they have small stalls), and generally in any road in the evening hours and I have handled equal numbers in Tamilnadu too. I assume that there are other states with the same issue.
    But there is a big difference between these two states. The fellow women folk will stand with me and the men folk who are on lookers will not criticise me. The women in Tamilnadu buses can be loud as a loud speaker, which makes any man think twice before taking a risk of being caught in a bus where they can't run. And here, women dare to beat them up if need be. I mean, women have voice and power!!
    And in general men are good and bad everywhere. As any extra marital affair or immoral relationship is again a taboo in Kerala, men may feel desperate; whereas other states accept these activities to a certain extend.
    But I haven't heard of fathers using their girls for their sexual satisfaction in Kerala. But here I hear the pathetic stories, shared in private, still hushed up about girls being used every night even with the knowledge of their mothers!!
    But as I think about it, I realise one thing. The worst man and the best man I met in my lifetime, both are Keralites!! So I still believe in goodness of my state and its people. They just need to stop shouting slogans and listen, think and believe in productive work. The next generation must be taught refusal skills and how to defend themselves in crisis. They have to face the fact that it is through justice and not by silencing the victim that their state grow to a better one for the future generation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You said that 'in general men and women are good and bad everywhere'. I also agree with your emphasis on the 'voice' and 'power' of women.Both these point to the need for forceful action and reaction in dealing with incidents that attack the dignity of women. Thanks for participating in the discussion with very valuable thoughts.

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  5. if kerala is in 3rd position, then lets know which are the states standing in 1st & 2nd position?

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    1. For Molestation incidents, MP and then AP. Maharashtra(3794)is very near to Kerala (3756). In fact, it gets third in the revised stats (2011)

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. Interesting article. Surprised to see that 2 states of the civilized south that make it to the top of the list. And the northern state in the list is also MP and not UP, Haryana or Bihar as one would expect. About interesting your analysis of the Malayalis. I have also heard lot of things being said about the Malayali mindset. Lot of people think Malayalis are untrustworthy. And interestingly the people who told me this were Malayalis themselves. I shared a house for a year with 2 Malayalis. I asked them why they opted to shared a house with me rather than their fellow Malayalis. They told me because they can't trust Malayalis and they had decided to overcome their apprehensions about each other due to the moderating influence of me and the other Telugu person as the other occupants of the house.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have no comments on the topic 'trustworthiness'. I am sure, there is no inter regional/linguistic variation on this count in the country. As a sociologist, I believe that there is no such distinction among the communities across the globe on this attribute.

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    1. I have not had opportunity to study sociology. What you say does make sense logically. But then there are stereotypes about different communities related to trustworthiness. Wonder what was the basis.

      Delete
    2. You are right. Stereotypes are called stereotypes because they are not 'factual'. They are sociological constructs of a limited number of persons and there is no empirical evidence to back up. But when one person or group of persons are branded in a particular way, that person or group tend to unintentionally internalize those attributes, though not consciously.

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  9. Such incidents seem to be more common and sometimes even more accepted in some crowds in conservative societies. See for example, the incidents that took place against women foreign reporters in Tahrir square, or against women protesters. A group of men believed in harassing the women. The attacks are often to suppress the women.

    I think there are reasons why such incidents are higher conservative societies.
    One is the feeling of having grown up in a conservative society, the perps feel that they have some sort of right to impose themselves on people who seem to exercise more freedom.

    I suspect that many incidences also have more to do with feeling superior by harassing others, than with seeking sexual pleasure.

    In rural conservative societies, since the social system is sort of relationship based, I believe there are fewer such issues because people know each other.
    But a conservative urban community has fewer such checks and balances, and I feel much of Kerala is like a conservative urban community, and that might explain higher incidence.

    Btw, conservative is probably the wrong word here, what I mean by that word in this context is someone who believes less in individual freedom and that people should conform to their value system.

    While the anectodal evidence I have seen matches with your interpretation of the data, I would suspect that many other states would have lower numbers getting recorded, because they don't trust the police/legal system.
    -Thejas

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Thejas for your incisive analysis. I agree with most of your views. Kerala, is neither a rural nor an urban society, rather some sociologists prefer to call such societies 'rurban', and I feel it is an apt term. As you said, it would be incorrect to apply the word 'conservatism' to the literate Kerala, but the term 'conservative mindset' would be appropriate. But I am not sure of the important point raised by you that 'many incidences also have more to do with feeling superior by harassing others, than with seeking sexual pleasure'. I still believe that the primary reason is the carnal pleasure.

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  10. Hi Sibichen,

    Reading your article, took me back twenty odd years, when walking or taking the bus to college, young women had to either develop temporary deafness in order to avoid some of the lewd comments, use files as a shield, where umbrellas and safety pins became a girls best friend as a defense at bus stops , on the bus and in theaters.

    Navigating through the emotional as well as actual eve teasing became a norm for most college bound women.
    "Ninakku ammayeum pengammarum illey" was supposed to touch an emotional chord and work on some deep string of decency, but women soon learned that men who valued their moms and sisters would never resort to eve teasing in the first place!

    Fast forward twenty years, and it appears that some things never change irrespective of how far Kerala has advanced. Such a shame that one has to say of KERALA, GOD's OWN COUNTRY, "where every prospect pleaseth, and only man is vile"

    It made me compare a news clip I heard on NPR radio, (http://www.npr.org/2012/11/01/164099058/vigilantes-spray-paint-sexual-harassers-in-cairo, ) and thought to myself, maybe the same system should be adopted in Kerala too !
    Such a shame that one has to say of KERALA, GOD's OWN COUNTRY, "where every prospect pleaseth, and only man is vile"

    Enjoyed reading your article!


    Grace

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    1. Yes Grace, there is ample scope for an "Estargel" campaign in Kerala as done in Cairo's Tahrir Square. I liked your quote at the end. I am sure, Reginald Heber had visited Kerala too before making that statement!

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  11. Dear Dr Sibi

    Enjoyed the well researched article based on logical arguments backed up with data. Humour was added bonus in the article. RK

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  12. Hi! Sibi,

    I ma glad you showed sensitivity towards such a touchy topic. About north-south divide, situation is equally pathetic throughout, other wise why Delhi is tagged rape capital!

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  13. Hi Sibichen

    Your article is thought provoking and you have daringly ventured into a topic where others shy away from. I deeply appreciate and share your concern towards beastly treatment of women and girls in our country and across the globe. Lord Shri Krishna once unequivocally said in Hastinapur court that " a society which does not respect and adore women has no future ". Even the great Mahabharath war was fought not for regaining kingdom but to punish the kings and kingsmen who molested, insulted and supported molestation of Draupadi.

    There are 6 great sins which were punished with death during the vedic period and one among them was insulting or molesting or abducting a women. Our law framers have to device a tough law for combating crimes against women including acid attack.

    Most of the crimes against women go unreported. Even police authorities are reluctant to take up the cases of eve-teasing, facebook and internet abuse against women. And I havent come across where authorities like National commission for women and similar agencies voluntarily coming forward to help the victims in this regard.

    We need to have at local level People's self Help group to tackle the issue and protect our women. And this is not just a suggestion but should be a commitment to all of us.

    Thank you, and keep writing articles concerning social causes of our country.

    P.Shenoy

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  14. In a Readers Forum in the 'Lonely Planet', a lady on tour to Kerala asked a question:
    " We are 2 relatively attractive western females late 20`s travelling in Kerala, Mysore to Hampi and then north to Mumbai - must we pack only loose clothing and very modest clothes: we have very few of these and would prefer to wear jeans and summer tops. We would appreciate any comments. Thanks. (obviously for temples etc we shall don a cardigan and headscarf)."

    Answer given:
    "I live in Kerala and I am an american expat
    answer to your first question is YES DRESS VERY MODEST or else you will have 100 creepers on you your whole trip all the time!!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I totally agree with your article... Ive lived in many states and anyone can clearly see the difference in kerala... I think every keralite should stay outside kerala for a few months to actually understand the bad side of kerala(and also to appreciate its goodness) ...

    I am actually amazed by the passivity with which keralites react to molestation.... Women just dont react in most cases...And even if they do, they will probably bear the risk of being called a 'thandedi' ..which will turn to 'pezhachaval' in no time.... Ask most kerala men and they will tell you that a woman in jeans or tops DESERVES to be molested.. That they are asking for it.. And the funny part is, the upholders of 'sadacharam' will be the first to pop a feel when he gets a chance.. And its not about sexual frustration.. (there are so many sexually frustrated guys out there.. not all of them go around molesting women.. also, people with prior sexual experiences also turn on women...)...The problem lies in wrong notions of sexuality and masculinity....And as you mentioned in the article, B-grade movies and 'cochu pustakam' has a major hand in perpetuating this mentality...

    The need of the hour is to create a society which does not commodify women or treat women as a prized possession that should be locked away inside an almirah.. Only TRUE respect and equality can change the scenario..

    PS: The child sex ratio of Kerala in the past two censuses has been 940... So the whole "We have more women than men" argument will change very soon..

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  16. High literecy in kerala is no achievement if it has no bearing on thinking of the people.My experience about mallus is the same as said in the article.They are indeed pseudo moralists and girls are very mallu filmy and same.Perversion is the way of life in kerala.well said and well analysed article.

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  17. Crimes in our society is not State centred. When a society grows everything grows with it. Take the case of Badaun, in UP or the Delhi men in bus or trains! They are such bash you can't just accept their behaviour. The crime rate also has to do with the import labourers to the state! Whether it is fake currency trading, smuggling, or any other crime. Even beggars in Kerala are imported from Bombay and their crimes if challenged in the court by highly paid leading advocates from Bombay. And so it goes ..........................

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