Pathanamthitta: Former Congress legislator and Youth Congress state vice-president KS Sabarinadhan has come out in support of his wife and Pathanamathitta Collector Divya S Iyer after her decision to bring her son to the valedictory ceremony of a private film festival here sparked a social media debate.
The Collector delivered a speech at the sixth International Film Festival of Adoor with the three-and-a-half -year old child in her arms.
While critics pointed out at the 'propriety', those backing Iyer, including her husband, highlight the multiple roles women play and their right to have their moments with their children.
The incident triggered a controversy after Deputy Speaker of the state Assembly, Chittayam Gopakumar, one of the organisers of event, shared a video of the Collector with her son attending the finale of the three-day event on October 30 on his Facebook page.
However, he deleted the video from his FB page later.
In the video, Iyer could be seen sitting with her child on the dais, cuddling him and later affectionately talking to him while standing up to deliver her speech.
In a Facebook post Sabarinadhan defended his wife. "Working mothers do not need anyone's sympathy. But, the society should give them a positive space to work," he said.
Edited excerpts from his post:
"After Divya took charge as the Pathanamthitta Collector, I have felt that she was working round-the-clock. She starts her job, which includes district-level-meetings and other activities, starts at 10 am and extends till 8 pm. On reaching home, she spends time with our son and plays with him till midnight.
Like most kids, our son has a sensor. The otherwise happy, amicable child demands his mother after 8pm and throws a fuss if she does not reach home by then. After she arrives, he has eyes only for her. The rest of us are banished.
Divya dedicates most Sundays entirely to our son, and avoids meetings and other tours during the weekend.
If any unavoidable programme crops up, she mentions that she will have to bring her son along. Most organisers are happy about this.
The video of such a programme posted by deputy Speaker Chittayam Gopakumar has now become the centre of discussion.
In a way, it is high time the issue was discussed. A lot of working women standing on their own feet do so after overcoming several hurdles. I remember listening to my mother's English lectures at Karamana College during my school vacation. If individuals take time to understand the difficulties women face while juggling work and their roles as a wife and mother, they will be left with little to criticise.
Most mothers face a different version of the mental pressure faced by the heroine in the movie 'Jaya Jaya Jaya Jayahe'.
Working mothers do not need sympathy. They just need a positive working space.
With years of perseverance and hard work, Kerala has finally managed to shut the mouths of traditionalists who have long argued that women are best suited within the four walls of a home. But we still have a long way to go."
While many criticised Divya, saying it was improper for a high-ranking officer to bring her child to a function, several others voiced support to the Collector and pointed out to the example of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who made history by bringing her three-month-old daughter to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018.
While Ardern delivered her speech at a peace summit in the UN, her partner Clarke Gayford held the infant on his lap, creating headlines worldwide then.
Renowned Malayalam writer Benyamin and social activist Dhanya Raman were among those who extended whole-hearted support to the woman IAS officer.
Raman, in a recent Facebook post, said let all children have the chance to grow up enjoying the love of their mothers' heart.
Benyamin said besides being the district collector, Iyer is also a person who plays multiple roles like wife, mother, friend and so on.
"She also needs private moments. She also has the right to spend some time with her child," he said in a FB post.
Asking what was objectionable in taking the child along with her while attending a private function, he also said "why cannot we think about the rights of mother and child?"
He also pointed out at the respect shown to women in many foreign countries if they arrive at public platforms, parliaments and legislative assemblies with their babies.
However, many persons including noted lyricist Rajeev Alunkal criticised the Collector's act saying by bringing the child to a public function, she acted without much propriety.
Several other critics charged that the woman official had "over-acted" and did not give much seriousness to the event.
The officer is yet to react to the controversy.
(With PTI inputs.)