These are times when women feel unsafe everywhere, be it their homes, workplaces, streets, markets or even in vehicles. When Kerala Excise Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh suggested that anyone who stares at a woman for more than 14 seconds should be jailed, the same people who voiced support for harassed women were amused, offended and laughed at the officer. “Obviously, they haven’t been leered at,” says actress Divyaprabha, who took to Facebook to narrate an incident she encountered. The Take Off actress was on her way from Pathanamthitta to Ernakulam in a low-floor AC bus when a co-passenger started staring at her.
She elaborates, “It was a ‘new-gen’ guy who appeared 25. First, I dismissed it as a curiosity of seeing an actress. But I became very uncomfortable as he continued staring at me for more than an hour. I understood his ‘disorder’ and stared back at him. Normally, such weirdos stop once you react, but this guy was unstoppable. I even made my discomfort and irritation evident, but he would take his eyes off me. When the bus halted at Vyttila, I asked him if this was his regular habit, to which he shouted at me: ‘I just looked at you. Did I do anything else’.”
The response made Divya all the more angry. She reported the incident to the cop at the bus station, but the boy was nowhere to be found. However, she caught hold of him with the help of auto drivers there as he was about to board an autorickshaw. “The guy, hailing from Vadakara, was returning from Gavi in Pathanamthitta. Hope they got to experience the ‘Gavi’ in Ernakulam too,” she says, adding that now she understood the relevance of the 14-second rule. Divya hasn’t lodged any police complaint in this regard, but she chose to write about it.
“In the wake of recent incidents, I felt that I should let people know that women react if their safety is at jeopardy. Being daytime, he just stared, but what if this was night! I don’t think he knows that I am an actor. This would have happened to anyone. Not everyone would bear with the torture. I usually react to any harassment or ‘approaches’,” says Divya. She admits the situation in the industry is no different. “I have been stared at and have faced misogynist comments, but haven’t faced casting couch,” she says. Another such place is social media. “I get a lot of lewd comments like any actress. In fact, they just need to vent it out on any woman,” she says.
Currently, enjoying the shooting break of Kammara Sambhavam, in which she acts as the sister of the character played by Dileep, Divya feels that only if women start responding will such incidents cease to happen. She adds, “We have to make our stance clear if we notice any advances, even if it is from our colleagues, friends or a complete stranger. I am sure that still many might not be able to digest how one feels threatened by a ‘check-out’. Maybe they don’t know the suffocation of a woman who is ogled at.”...