India professor ‘melon breast’ comments spark protest

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Photo shows a group of protesters holding banners and watermelonImage copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters held slices of watermelon while demonstrating against the remarks

Students at a college in the southern Indian state of Kerala have been protesting after a professor compared student’s breasts to melon.

A video recording of the comments came to light on the internet over the weekend, drawing angry responses.

Some took to the streets, holding up slices of watermelon in protest.

Some posted topless photographs of themselves holding watermelons to demonstrate against women being told what to wear.

The recording of Prof Jouhar Munavvir T, who works at the Farook Training College in the northern Kerela city of Kozhikode, has been widely shared on social media after being published on the website Dool News.

In the recording, Prof Munavvir T criticised female students who would “tie a scarf around their head, leaving a part of their chest, a body part that attracts men, exposed.

“Its like a slice of melon, cut out to show how ripe the fruit is.”

After the recording was shared by thousands of people, protesters marched through the streets of Kozhikode holding slices of watermelon and banners decrying the professor’s remarks.

Student organisations from across the political spectrum took part in the demonstrations.

“It is against all women. In a state like Kerala such a comment cannot be tolerated,” Nikhil P, joint secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, told BBC Hindi.

Many took to social media to express their anger at the professor’s remarks.

Two women shared photographs of themselves topless and holding watermelons on Facebook in protest at the professor’s comments.

One of the women, Aarathi S.A, told the BBC: “I put up this post exposing my half-nude body because of the hyper-sexualising of the human body.

“If you wear a sari, you are always tense because no part of the body should be exposed. People insult us if we show any part of bodies.”

Aarathi explains that since posting the photographs she has been called “a prostitute”, while others have called her stand “a very good idea.”

Rehana Fathima, who also posted a topless photograph of herself holding a watermelon, added: “It is my body, my right. The professor is treating women like objects.”

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One woman asked why people do not focus on the “brain of the girl who studies diligently,” or the abilities of those who “sing well, write poems, dance well and win sports medals”.

While the majority of online reaction criticised the professor’s comments, one user, linked to the Indian Union Muslim League, suggested the academic’s comment’s were taken out of context.

While another critic of the protests asked if the student organisations were facing a “dearth of issues” to focus on.

The BBC has attempted to contact the management of the Farook Training College for comment, but has received no response.

By George Pierpoint, UGC and Social News

Additional reporting by BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi and BBC Monitoring’s Samiha Nettikkara

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