Indian actress stages a revealing MeToo protest
NEW DELHI — There was no shortage of television cameras when Sri Reddy, an Indian film actress, staged a protest against sexual harassment in the country’s film industry — one of the bolder MeToo-type moments India has seen.
Reddy marched up to the offices of a film commission Saturday, took off half her clothes, and stood there glaring, hands covering breasts.
“Are we girls, or things to play with?” she asked.
She was then whisked off by police to face possible charges of public nudity.
India makes more movies than anywhere else. Though the MeToo movement has not shaken society in India the way it has in the United States, several Indian actresses have stepped forward to complain about a pervasive culture of sexual harassment.
The allegations included claims they had been groped, propositioned, and forced to demean themselves to get work. Reddy, 28, has been one of the most vocal. She has lobbed serious accusations against powerful men in the film business.
After videos and pictures of a topless Reddy spread quickly on the Internet, the question turned to what the impact would be. Reddy is not widely known and she staged her protest in Hyderabad, a big city but not nearly as important for the movie industry as Mumbai.
Deepa Narayan, a social scientist who has published a book on how women are treated in India, said Reddy might face problems. “The first thing that happens when a woman in India takes a bold move, she is dismissed,” Narayan said.
Some actors have already taken swipes at Reddy, accusing her of protesting just to bolster her career, an accusation that she has rejected.
But, Narayan said, “If she can get a few women to rally around her, maybe it will lead to real change.”
She added: “What India needs is a powerful man to be implicated.”
India can be an especially harsh place for women. Many have to reckon with arranged marriages and being forced to marry when still children. Horrific abuse cases, like the rape and killing of a young woman on a bus in 2012, have prompted great outcry, but, many women would argue, have changed the landscape very little.