Popular Indian actress Sri Reddy staged a topless display in support of the #MeToo movement in an attempt to draw attention to sexual harassment in the country’s film industry.
Reddy, 34, was detained by police in Hyderabad police on Saturday after staging a topless protest outside the Movie Artistes’ Association (MAA) Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, after accusing unnamed filmmakers of running a casting couch instead of fostering local talent.
“This is the only way I can get them to listen to me,” Reddy said. “I have been shouting from the rooftops about the injustice that has been meted out to me and to several other women in the film industry and yet, I have not got any response from MAA. So I decided to strip publicly.”
Among many allegations, Reddy claims that women must accept routine sexual harassment in order to get top acting roles. In her case, she claims the MAA have denied her a membership card for refusing to demean herself to filmmakers’ sexual demands.
“So, if we come out (with the allegations), they call us prostitutes,” she told local media. “I don’t know about others. I don’t speak about others. I have faced injustice. I have proof. They don’t come out because they are afraid of the proof I have.”
MAA president Sivaji Raja dismissed Reddy’s claims, describing the incident as a “cheap publicity stunt” and confirming that he would not provide her with a membership card.
“We are always here to help people from the industry. In fact, we have helped a lot of women who have faced problems and have punished people they had complained against,” Raja said at a press conference.
“I spoke to Sri Reddy and had told her that we are there for her if she faced any issue,” he continued. “However, instead of coming to us, she went on to social media and tried to gain cheap publicity.”
Reddy, who has a Facebook following of nearly six million people, began her career as a television presenter Telugu-language news channel before venturing into film. She has appeared in films including Nenu Nanna Abaddam and Aravind 2.
India remains the world’s largest producer of films with billions of movie tickets sold annually. However, the country has one of the world’s highest rates of gender inequality, where millions of women face gender-based violence, unemployment, and difficulty in accessing education.