‘Pennorumbettal’ held to commemorate Soumya
Passengers on the Ernad Express were taken by surprise on Wednesday morning when a group of women sprang up from different sections of the general coach and started an impromptu drama session. The typical street play came alive inside the railway compartment through a novel attempt at raising awareness of issues faced by women.
The campaign titled ‘Pennorumbettal’ was organised by a women’s rights collective to commemorate the second death anniversary of Soumya, who was raped and murdered while travelling on a train.
Social activist K. Ajitha inaugurated the event. The train compartments came alive with plays, poetry readings, and debates.
The activists studied the general behaviour of passengers through some creative real-time acting, and by posing as normal travellers.
“One of us casually asked a woman why she was travelling in the general compartment when she could get into the women’s compartment. The way people around us reacted to that situation was worth noting,” says Divya Diwakaran, one of the organisers of the event.
Later, the group surprised the travellers with questions, which stirred up debates on a host of issues. The performances continued until the train reached Shoranur.
The group says their aim was to challenge the underlying patriarchy even in public spaces such as trains. They also questioned the practice of giving the tag of ‘victims’ to those who had been raped.
“All the girls who have had to face this unfortunate plight have been further degraded by identifying them with place names such as Suryanelli, Kiliroor, and Vithura. Further, the tag of ‘victim’ reinforces the patriarchal ideas of society, associating purity with virginity. The same mindset extends the argument and questions the dresses worn by women, holding that as the reason for the rapes,” says Ms. Diwakaran.
She says the campaign for equal rights for women should not be done by keeping out men, but with their involvement.