Shedding lights yet again on the lack of safe public spaces for women, Kerala actor Anna Ben Nayarambalam shared a moving social media note to reveal a harrowing incident of sexual harassment. The actor, known for her role in Kumbalini Nights, shared that she was groped by a man inside a mall in Kochi while she was visiting with her family.
The incident took place inside the popular Lulu mall in Kochi.
"Two men walked past me in a generously spaced aisle in Lulu hypermarket which barely had people crowding and one of them not so accidentally grazed his hands on my back while walking past me," the actor wrote in a moving Instagram post.
The actor further added that the incident was so shocking that she was "caught off guard" and could not even react immediately but that she instantly knew something wrong had happened.
"Because it caught me off guard I couldn’t react immediately. I wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt but you know when something is just not right, you feel it,” she wrote.
But it did not end there. The actor writes that the jeering men followed them again and at a moment when they found her alone with her sister, they approached them outright and tried to make conversation. After trying to make frivolous conversation, the men left when they saw the actor's mother approaching.
The incident appears to have left the actor deeply disturbed.
“Being a woman has been very tiring, to be on guard every minute as you step out of your house. To watch my clothes when I bend and turn. To guard my chest with my arms in a crowd… And on the days I’m home, I worry about my mother, my sister, my friends who have to do the same things. It is all because of these sick men. You take away our safety. You take away our comfort and the joy of our womanhood. I despise you,” the actor wrote.
"As I type this I can think of a thousand things I could have told them and a hundred things I could have done. But I didn’t. I just couldn’t. I just wanted to let this out here so I could feel a little relief. To feel that I have done something about it knowing fully that they walked away without guilt or trouble. Knowing that they might do it again, it angers me".
The incident highlights the lax attitude of the country toward women's safety, despite endemic incidents of physical, mental, and sexual violence against women. Just three months ago, another South Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde had shared a video of how a mob had assaulted and verbally abused her for exercising in a public park in a sports bra and shorts.
The incident in Kochi and the victim's account of the stress it caused her is also a reminder that even women who are privileged can be just as powerless in the face of sexual harassment.
Ending her note, the Kumbalani Nights actor had a stern note for men.
"If you have done anything remotely inappropriate to a woman, know that you are the lowest form of life and you don’t deserve anything but hell".
And to women, she said, "I hope you have the courage to give a tight slap on the face of such men."
The Police have registered a case. The police said that though they were yet to receive a complaint from the actor, but a suo motu case based on her social media post has been registered. "The CCTV footage in the mall was examined and her allegations are found to be prima facie true. A case is hence being registered invoking Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC," said a senior officer with Kalamassery police station.