In 2017, two Dalit girls in Walayar were killed after being sexually assaulted. The Palakkad Special Poxo Court acquitted all the three accused in the case. The verdict, which triggered strong protests, has now been quashed by the High Court and a retrial has been ordered. After the High Court passed their judgement, a need arose demanding a re-investigation rather than a re-trial, since all the evidence was destroyed and due to the irresponsibility and vested interest of the police. After the High Court verdict, the parents of the girls went to Thiruvananthapuram and filed a petition to the Chief Minister seeking a CBI probe. It is quite solacing that the government has now decided to refer the investigation of this case to the CBI.
During this period, protests for justice and political struggles were there for the Walayar case. On the same day, I exposed the ludicrousness of the BJP's hunger strike. My intention was to raise a protest to whether the author Dr. George Onakkoor was unaware of the deliberate Muslim and Dalit rapes taking place in BJP ruled states, when he went to inaugurate Kummanam Rajasekharan's Walayar hunger strike. The whole country was just in shock to hear about the Muslim girl in Kathua who had been killed in a similar manner. Otherwise my whole concern was with how the Gujarat genocide could be forgotten by the writers who have to stand up for human love forever. It was only for those reminders that I decided to stay away from the event that I was supposed to attend the next day with him. After that, a case came up in Kerala where Padmarajan, the leader of the BJP teachers' union, sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in Palathayi. Will BJP leaders go on a hunger strike demanding justice for this girl in Palathayi?
Writers are given love and respect by society throughout their lives only because they stand for truth and justice. It is foolish for writers to expect unconditional love from society. Thankamani is a name that has remained in my heart since a young age, when I started to understand and pay attention to the tragedies faced by women. Thankamani is not just a woman's name. It is the name of a village where the police under the then government carried out mass sexual assaults on innocent women. For reference, the gang rape of women in Thankamani village, was later known as the Thankamani case. The name Mathura, which I heard during enquiries into the history of women in India, has always been a frightening one. On March 26, 1972, a tribal girl was raped in custody by the police. The rape law had to be amended as part of a nationwide campaign by women, against the Supreme Court verdict in September 1979 for acquitting the guilty cops. And yet, despite so many women's protection laws, so many places are still drenched in the tears and blood of girls. Now we have these infamous places like Delhi, Unnao, Kathua and Hathras.
A place called Suryanelli in Kerala was made a disgraceful place by not just one or two, but by more than forty men of power, wealth and influence. Even the word 'sex racket case' originated in Kerala during that time. Then it continues with Vithura, Kothamangalam, Kozhikode, Kilirur ... to Walayar and Palathayi. It is alarming to know that even as I am writing this, many girls in the country and in Kerala are being sexually abuseds. The World Health Organization has made a classification of sexual harassment between domestic and outside. One-third of women (35%) worldwide experience physical or sexual assault at home. There is no doubt that these numbers may have increased further during the Covid period. More studies on the physical and sexual abuse of women and children at home during the Covid period in Kerala can bring this statistics to light.
There is a social situation in our country where men who attack women in their own homes can roam freely and sexually assault any woman. It affects the physical and mental health, intellectual and sexual development of women and children. It robs away the freedom and right to life as human beings with equal rights. This atrocity continues as human rights are violated. The government would need to show a greater political commitment and persistent hard work to implement the constitutional rights for women. An awareness must be created among women who have been brought up on patriarchal values. The most recent example of this lack of awareness is the fact that one of the challenges faced by the Kerala government during the court verdict on Sabarimala women's entry was that women themselves chanted hymns against going to Sabarimala - just as there were women in the past, who tore the blouses of women who started to wear them.
The world and the country are hoping for a vaccination to prevent the Covid pandemic. The fear and isolation that women have been facing for centuries should also have a cure for the epidemic of sexual assault. The governments have a major responsibility in this.The government's timely intervention in dealing with crimes against women requires drastic changes within the police system. In the Walayar case, the case would not have been like this if DYSP Sojan had been replaced by another police officer with honesty and a women-friendly outlook. However, such things should not be dependent on the character of the individuals. What is needed is an impeccable system of procedures that all police officers should follow equally. The only way to ensure that justice for women is not delayed or denied is to make sure that everyone takes a non-partisan, non-religious, non-communal stance in cases of sexual assault on children and women.
No one would forget the struggle for justice waged by the nuns. At the same time, there should be committed judges in the courts who are women-oriented and committed. Considering the difficulties faced by the Government of Kerala and the victim in the case of the attacked actress, this cannot be ignored.