Rehana Fathima, an Indian activist and model, has been arrested over an "explicit" Facebook selfie. Fathima, 32, from Kerala, has also been suspended from her job as a technician at the state-run telecom company BSNL.
The woman shared a photo on Facebook on 30 September, in which she wore the attire associated with followers of the deity Ayyappa, the son of Shiva and Vishnu's female avatar in Hindu tradition. With white sandalwood paste smeared on her forehead, Fathima mimicked the sitting pose in which Ayyappa is depicted. What insulted the guardians of decency, however, was an exposed thigh: her case was registered over a complaint claiming that her photo hurt religious sentiment.
The judge dismissed Fathima's bail plea and remanded her in custody this week, explaining that her photo appears "to have the propensity to wound the religious feelings of the devotees or create confusion in their mind and may affect the religious feelings of the devotees."
She shared the post two days after India's top court lifted a ban on women of menstruating age (defined as between the ages of 10 and 50) from entering Sabarimala, one of the world's largest pilgrimage sites, located in Kerala.
In October, Fathima, herself an Ayyapa devotee, attempted to enter the shrine under a 100-strong police escort but was stopped by protesters, including temple priests. Lord Ayyappa is considered to have been a bachelor, and protesters claimed that allowing female worshippers to enter the temple would be an insult to their god.
"We don't understand how a woman's photo showing her knee would be anti-religious in a country where naked saints are worshipped. We will approach the court for bail," her partner told The Times of India.