The recent news of kidnap and molestation of a popular Malayalam actress has rattled films industries and many actors from the fraternity stepped forward to their express solidarity. One such actor is Tollywood’s Manchu Lakshmi who poured her grief and anguish in an open letter.
The actor wrote about issues ranging from women security to media coverage of issues on molestation, saying she “fears” the way women are treated in the society. She posted the letter on social media and it was widely circulated by many stars expressing similar concerns.
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“High time each one of us takes the responsibility of working towards a change before our own lives get affected,” wrote Bollywood actor Taapsee in her post.
Here is the full letter that she wrote:
Just when we think we have shaken off the ghosts of our past and are finally moving on, something happens to show us how far we still have to go. I’ve been wanting to talk about this since I heard what happened to my colleague, the Malayalam actress that was brutally kidnapped and assaulted. But I was so shocked, I could barely process it…
Women in our country are either prayed to as goddesses or hidden behind closed doors. The lucky ones are eventually respected as mothers and wives. But is that all there is to a woman? In an era when women are far from safe, is it right to continue praying to Goddess Lakshmi, Parvati, Durga, Saraswati, and Kali? Is it okay to pray to them when we continue butchering their daughters in the name of moral policing? When we continue to engage in activities and rituals like dowry, revenge stirring out of estranged love, sexual assault, marital rape, eve teasing, and the list could go on forever!
This not something new. This has become such a normal part of our lives, mind you, ‘normal’. We are used to waking up to news of more and more women being assaulted, kidnapped, insulted, raped, broken down into societal notions of what women should be… Yes, I am also enraged about what happened with a Malayalam actress recently. If the abduction and the sexual assaults weren’t enough, the media made it worse by ‘accidentally’ leaking her name!
We live in a world when, as women, everybody owns our bodies but us! I see this every day in the entertainment industry, where women are used as props rather than full-fleshed characters. Ah, flesh! That sells, item songs do, too. What about women with three-dimensional characters? What about the portrayal of actual women?
This incident that occurred with a member of our Malayalam sorority isn’t the first, nor is it the last… And I want to take this opportunity to share how I, too, feel unsafe. We normalize the behavior that scares us. But it is NOT NORMAL nor should it be our reality! We are frightened to roam the streets alone. To go home by public transport. To walk down a street when a gang of boys appear. To wear clothes that we like. To just exist!
If there’s just one thing we should get out of this, it is that we aren’t really safe. Telling our women to stay behind closed doors after dusk, to cover up, to not drink, to not smoke, to not smile too much, to not be over-friendly, these aren’t solutions. We need to teach our children to respect women and their bodies. We need to teach our girls to demand this respect for themselves. We need to keep raising our voice, keep speaking up for the wronged, keep understanding what’s right, and keep working towards a better future.
Love, light and hope