The woman who says that it's not only men who like to look

By BBC Trending
What's popular and why

image copyrightVanaja Vasudev

"You don't get pregnant from eye contact".

One of the memorable lines from a Facebook post that has been liked more than 10,000 times. Its origin is the southern Indian state of Kerala. Its author a part-time teacher and accountant named Vanaja Vasudev.

Her post, written in the local language Malayalam, was a response to a bizarre comment by a local official, Kerala excise commissioner Rishiraj Singh, who claimed in a speech that a man who stares at a woman for more than 14 seconds could be jailed for harassment.

There is no such law and Singh's assertion has caused much amusement on social media. Though one news outlet published a video of a man's eyes staring for 14 seconds to give its viewers an impression of what the fictional offence would feel like from the point of view of the person being stared at.

image copyrightManorama Online

However, Vasudev's point was that if such a law did exist then it would be a case of double standards.

"To tell the truth, if a good-looking guy passes by, I check him out. Whether it is at a temple yard, a church festival, a bus stop, while going to buy fish at the market or on way to work, I look (meaning: check them out) properly," she wrote.

She believed it would be hypocritical for the 14-second-rule to be applied solely to men. And how, she wondered, could it be policed?

"How can someone like me tell the brothers (meaning: men) looking at me that they should stop after 13.59 seconds? The quota for the day is over," she added, "I don't know everyone's opinion. As far as I am concerned, this is not harassment; it's just for fun...You don't get pregnant from eye-contact."

However, the responses she received for her post, were not all supportive. Although several people praised her writing with comments like "superb" and "true story", others were critical.

image copyrightFacebook

One man called her a "pottakinnattilla thavala" - or a frog in a well who doesn't know there is a world outside.

image copyrightFacebook

Another comment, by a Preetha Nair, felt that Vasudev was being naive, saying that "the problem is that it (staring) is just a starting point and in many cases, the beginning of trouble."

Vasudev told BBC Trending that several more strongly worded and abusive messages started pouring in, mostly to her inbox. Some chided her for looking at men and asked "her rate" to sleep with others. Others called her a "vedi" which translates to "firework" or "bomb", but is slang for a promiscuous woman.

"My aim was not to troll the commissioner. I was trying to make a humorous point," she says. "The vast majority of the trolling was done through private message - they didn't have the nerve to post in public."

As a result of the trolling, Vasudev wrote a second post to explain herself. This follow-up post, which directly addresses her online abusers, has been shared more than 3,000 times.

Vasudev decided, she told BBC Trending, to humanise her life for her trolls. She described her impoverished background, her father's death and her childhood dream of "having a full stomach."

image copyrightVanaja Vasudev
image captionVasudev wrote a follow-up post to take on her trolls

On her second post, (which we've translated from Malayalam), she wrote: "I said that I look at boys. It doesn't mean that I would come anywhere you called and take off my clothes.. I am a daughter of my mother who lived with dignity even in extreme poverty. With a lot of hard work, I am independent.

Your abusive words can no longer trouble me.

If you have read what was written above, do you dare to 'fix a rate' for my dignity? If yes, please comment below this post and not in inbox."

Blog by Megha Mohan and additional research by Samiha Nettikkara

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