By Nikhil Jayakrishnan
For all its talk of progressivism, the fact remains that mainstream society in Kerala is deeply rooted in patriarchy and misogyny. Incidents during the past few months – from the abduction and sexual assault of an actress to the rape and impregnation of a minor by a pastor – have stripped the state’s veneer of a progressive, liberal society, laying bare the fact that despite the highest literacy rates, male to female ratio and lowest infant mortality rates, women in Kerala are no less vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse than in other ‘backward’ states. Even the international media could not help but take note of this glaring paradox.
“Despite the strides women have made in various fields, their safety in the state remains a sorry affair,” says K C Rosakutty, Chairman, Kerala Women’s Commission, while also bemoaning the patriarchal attitude that still holds a firm grip on public perception of women. “The idea that women deserve equal rights as individuals is yet to gain currency in the popular discourse. This can only be brought about by implementing gender sensitisation at the school level,” she added.