By Ila Ananya
At some point last month, I was talking to an uncle about the mass molestation in Bangalore. Of course his only question was just why the many women who had been on the streets that night were there in the first place. “I’m not saying don’t party,” he was saying, “but shouldn’t you be careful? Don’t you know that this is how people behave?”
Ever since a Malayalam actor was abducted and sexually assaulted on 17th February, the public response has been crazy. The media frenzy has shown that after all this time, there is still no sense of how to report on sexual assault, but now there are reports of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) saying that actresses shouldn’t travel alone at any time of the day or night.
Apparently AMMA — their site introduces itself as “the spanking ‘n’ sparking website for the Malayalam cine buffs” — held a meeting earlier this week to find ways to ensure safety of women actors in the industry. But apart from deciding to provide legal assistance to the actor, they announced that women should avoid travelling alone, at all times. Because it’s always the woman’s fault. And because that’s how sexual assault can be stopped. Perhaps it’s also a good time to add the story about how the production house had got the actor the driver (who is one of the accused). Reportedly, her old driver (who has a criminal record against him) told the production house about this new driver.
You might have read this piece on the energy that women put in to avoiding sexual assault. Women said they wore scarves, they took different routes home, they didn’t wear bright colours because they feared it would attract attention. How do we reconcile this with these sweeping statements of AMMA and all the uncles in the world who make these statements? As Malayalam filmmaker and writer, Sreebala K Menon said, “So you still don’t believe in teaching men to behave?”