An elderly woman tried to shame Haritha for her attire that apparently “was against Kerala’s culture.”

Publicly shamed for wearing jeans read how this Kerala student got the apology she deserved
news Moral Policing Sunday, October 16, 2016 - 17:52

Like on any regular day, Haritha Rekha, a law college student in Ernakulam decided to grab a quick lunch from an eatery next to her college.

It happened a few weeks ago, but Haritha remembers the incident vividly.

“I was talking to a teacher of mine at the restaurant when a middle-aged woman walked up to me and asked if I were a Malayali. I did not feel the need to reply to such a question thrown at me by a stranger, and ignored her. However, she must have overheard me talking to my teacher in Malayalam,” Haritha recounts.

In no time, the woman walked up to the center of the restaurant and declared that Haritha’s attire wasn’t modest enough.

Haritha was wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

“Listen everybody, do you see this girl’s attire? Is it not against our culture to dress like this? We could have ignored it if she were a non-Malayali," the woman shouted at the top of her voice.

Humiliation was what Haritha felt first when she was being shouted at in public, in an attempt of moral policing.

But the feeling of humilation lasted not more than a few seconds, after which she confronted the woman who stood before her, accusing her of maligning Kerala’s culture by wearing jeans and t-shirt.

Though the incident happened a month ago and with her receiving support on Facebook, the 21-year-old still fumes when she recounts the experience.

“I have had people-including women-look at me with what I recognize as ridicule in their eyes, at seeing a girl dressed in western clothes. But never before have I been subjected to moral policing to this degree,” Haritha, a resident of Ernakulam told The News Minute.

She was also furious at being targeted so.

“To begin with, I wasn’t even wearing a sleeve-less top like I generally do. I was wearing a jeans and top and for some reason, I even had my socks on. Secondly, she had no business talking to me like that,” Haritha fumes.

Haritha’s protests that her dress was less revealing than the woman’s saree, did little to stop the woman from continuing her rant.

When the people at the restaurant came in support of Haritha, asking the woman to stay away from bothering others, she went out of the restaurant to gather more people around.

“When more people began to speak in my favour, the woman tried to threaten me saying that girls like me should be taken to the police station,” Haritha said.

For once, Haritha agreed with the woman, that law must deal with “such women.”

“As she realized that she wasn’t able to garner any public support, she tried to get away in an autorikshaw. I jumped on to the auto along with her and asked to be taken to the police station,” Haritha said.

Though the woman resisted, she later agreed to go to the station. The first question she posed at the inspector is this: “Sir, what do you think about this girl’s dressing?”

The next hour saw police officers and Haritha’s mother-a lawyer-  giving it back to the woman, who still tried to shame her.

Though a case was not registered against the woman since she apologized, Haritha feels that was not enough. Haritha did get immense support on Facebook when she shared her experience.

"But I wonder that I would have received the same support from the public, if I had been wearing something that they too felt was against our culture," she said.


Also read: He assaulted us in broad daylight in crowded Kochi and he is still out there

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