Rehana Fatima is a woman’s rights activist in Kerala. The full name of this bold and daring activist is Rehana Fathima Pyarijaan Sulaiman. Moreover, She has another name, Surya Gayatri. Rehana was born on 30 May 1986 in a conservative Muslim family. At an early age, she used to go madrassa and used to wear a hijab and perform namaz five times a day. But at the age of 12 after the death of her father, she stopped practicing Islam.
She completed her B.Com and MCA degrees with the first rank from Indira Gandhi National Open University. She married Manoj K Sreedhar, and they have 2 children together. Furthermore, she was a model before she started activism. Moreover, she also acted in Malayalam film Eka. The movie is about intersex people. She worked in BSNL as a telecommunications technician until May 2020. She is no stranger to controversies because of her bold acts and activism. Let’s look into her activism stories and controversies.
Struggle Against Stereotypes
Rehana Fathima loves breaking the stereotypes, whether it’s playing as an intersex in the movie, taking off the hijab, and performing other bold actions.
- Lord Ayyappa Temple
Rehana Fathima attempted to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. She did that intentionally to outrage the religious feeling of devotees in October 2018. She also allegedly hurt the religious sentiments and feelings through her social media posts before entering the temple.
Her company state-run telecommunications, BSNL suspended her because of her arrest in November 2018. But before that, the BSNL transferred her to the Palarivattom telephone exchange where there was less public contact.
There were many agitations in the village against the entry of the woman in the temple during the pilgrimage season. So Rehana being the woman’s rights activist wanted to break the stereotypes and hence entered the temple in this season. The company said that they forcefully retired her because of her criminal activity and being arrested. However, Fathima’s bold acts were not accidental but intentional.
She was also expelled from the Muslim community. Kerala Muslim Jama’ath expelled her because she attempted to enter a temple and hurt the feeling of lakhs of Hindus and devotees. President of Muslim Jama’ath Council, Poonkujh said that she also acted naked in a movie, which i completely against the teaching of islam and so she does not have any right to use a Muslim name.
- Kiss of Love
She was also a part of a nonviolent protest called Kiss of Love. This protest was against moral policing and started in Kochi. It started when a gang attacked a coffee shop because of the display of affection between couples on the ground of condemning alleged immoral activity. It was in North Kerala’s Kozhikode city. This attack triggered the movement of the Kiss of Love. It was first started on November 2 in 2014 at marine drive, Kochi. Afterward, this movement also spurs all over India.
Many religious and political groups opposed the campaign. The opposition groups included Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Bajrang Dal Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Ernakulam wing of Kerala Students Union. There is also a Facebook page supporting this campaign Kiss of Love and has immense support of more than 1,20,000 likes up till now. Fathima tried to break the stereotype and took part in the movement with her husband Manoj K Sreedhar.
Pulikali is a cultural street dance which is performed during Onam. During this performance, males dress up like tigers, leopards, and lions, and dance. Pulikali is a folk art performed at the annual harvest festival in Kerala. On this occasion, Rehana Fathima appeared in the skin of a tigress, dressed and painted her body like a tiger, and broke the gender barrier. She was the only female in the Ayyanthol Pulikali group, wanting to encourage other women.
All-male troupes mostly perform this traditional Onam tiger dance, but as a gender stereotype breaker, she participated in the dance. She once said that she always wanted to perform in a space dominated by men and hence she fulfilled her wish. Activist Rehana Fathima’s Facebook account simply says Break The Rules in her description. And below that she has written in Malayalam Change The Rules Yourself, or Change Yourself. Consequently, this description says a lot about her track record.
- Watermelon Controversy
She kicked up quite a storm a year before the Sabarimala incident. She posed topless with watermelons on her hands. The Kerala based activist has been a part of several movements. She did that bold act because an Indian professor at Farook Teacher Training College in Kozhikode, Kerala accused female students of showing too much cleavage and claimed that they display their cleavage like a fruit seller and called that as sliced watermelons. She, along with her friend, posted her topless pictures holding watermelons in front of her cleavage to show that women should have the same freedom as men regarding his body.
- Intersex Movie Eka
Fathima acted in a movie about intersexuality. According to the IMDB page, Eka is a true incident based movie. Furthermore, it is the first Indian movie to discuss Intersex gender. However, India has banned the movie.
- Children Painting On her Body
On 19 June this year, this Kerala’s activist uploaded a video clip on YouTube. In the video, two of her children aged 14, a boy and an eight-year-old girl were painting on her semi-nude body. She wrote as a caption on the video Body Art and Politics. The Ernakulam Town South Police registered a case against her. The court alleged her of offenses punishable under sections 13, 14, and 15 of the protection of children from the Sexual Offences Act.
Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan of Kerala high court on July 24 dismissed her anticipatory bail. Consequently, she then filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the high court’s decision. She claimed before the high court that she is an activist and has been fighting against body discrimination. Furthermore, she told the high court that she believes there should be openness on the body discussion and body parts. She believes that people should give their children sex education and need to be aware of body parts.
She said that she uploaded the video with that intention that children will mature to view the body as a different medium rather than see it as a sexual tool alone. She says despite the woman being covered up in clothes, men are attacking her every minute in this sexually frustrated society. Moreover, she said women simply do not feel safe in clothes also.
In conclusion, Rehana Fathima is a bold, brave, and daring activist. Although she has lots of controversies and hits on the headlines from time to time, she is the gender stereotype breaker. Her activism has built up the confidence of many women, and they stood up against gender barriers.
However, people are continuously accusing her because of her bold acts. But she has not stopped and will not stop fighting for women’s rights. As a result of her activism, many have stood against stereotypes and gender barriers. She talks about the topics that are taboo in the stereotypical society and hence faces criticism from many people as well.