Rehana’s lawyer submitted a reply in the Kerala High Court and stated that she has not absconded and will be available for investigation purpose or trial.

Picture of Kerala activist Rehana Fathima as posted on her Facebook profileFacebook/Rehana Fathima
news Court Friday, July 17, 2020 - 17:39

Rehana Fathima, an activist and former BSNL employee, who has been booked under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for a controversial video where her children were seen painting her semi-naked body, filed a response in court on Friday arguing against the state’s opposition to her bail petition. 

Rehana’s counsel advocate Renjith B Marar stated that her video cannot be watched in isolation without “understanding the message which is being conveyed through the video as well as the write-up along with the video.” The video was uploaded onto YouTube on June 19, with a hashtag #BodyArtPolitics, and the write-up stated that the video is meant to dispel societal taboo on nudity and sex. The video was criticised and raked up a controversy, following which a complaint was filed against her. Rehana had then approached the court for anticipatory bail. 

In the response filed in court, Rehana’s counsel listed the sections under POCSO which have been applied against Rehana and provided counters for each on how the actual offence as per law was never attracted by her video.

“There is no indecency or obscenity involved in the video. Much less, there is no indecent or obscene representation of the children,” the response stated.

The counsel stated there is no exploitation of the children as it is the mother who is being painted upon and that the video does not show her bare chest. The counsel adds that Rehana’s breasts are covered with body paint and that it does not “arouse any sexually explicit feeling” in the minds of “prudent” men.

“It is not unknown that in the state of Kerala, in order to wear blouses and clothes to cover the chest, there had to be social agitations. The body painting of males is also much accepted when it comes to PuliKali festivals in Thrissur. Also, when Theyyam and such other rituals are performed at the temple, body painting is conducted on the body of the male artists. One cannot assume obscenity or indecent in the same,” the counsel submitted to the court. 

Advocate Marar added that Rehana’s present act, “to pursue her body politics,” is not an isolated incident.

“She has been pursuing this throughout her life, even including PuliKali at Thrissur. All the Goddesses’ idols are bare-chested as well. When one prays at the temple, the feeling is not of sexual explicitness but one of divinity,” Rehana has said in her application in court. 

The counsel added that an offence under Section 67B of the Information Technology Act (Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form) cannot be applied since the offence is not made out as the children are not engaged in any sexually explicit acts. He added that Sections under the Juvenile Justice (Care and  Protection of Children ) Act 2015 also cannot be applied since “the element of unnecessary mental or physical harassment is missing.”

“The only harassment the children are facing is the seizure of the laptop and the study materials by the police and the fact that the children cannot attend the online classes whenever their father is away due to the lack of other materials,” the counsel has said in the note submitted to the court.

Asking the court to grant Rehana anticipatory bail, her counsel added that she has not absconded and will be available for investigation purpose or trial.

Kerala government’s stand

The Kerala government earlier in June had filed a reply opposing Rehana’s bail petition. In the application, the government through Special Prosecutor Suman Chakravarthi had stated that Rehana used her minor children to paint on her naked body by touching her private parts and thus violated sections of the POCSO Act. 

“The petitioner did not stop with that but she videographed the entire scene and published it over social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook and she also expressed that she felt more relaxing. This video is viewed by more than 50,000 people. 'Child pornography not only amounts to making porn videos out of children but also includes using children for a sexual act and pleasure',” the Kerala government had said in its reply dated June 29.

The government added that the act cannot be viewed as sex education as stated by the petitioner as it will affect the children who are indulged in the act and has an effect on the society. “Also, doing child pornography under the name of body art is not acceptable. The video of the petitioner will encourage others to indulge in such kind of acts,” the government had said.

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