New Delhi : National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam today demanded an apology from actor Kamal Haasan for publicly identifying a Malayalam actress who was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car in Kerala.
"We are taking suo motu cognisance of the matter and sending him a letter asking him to apologise or retract his statement," Kumaramangalam told PTI.
The actor, speaking to the media on Wednesday, had named the actress while answering a question on the security of women in the film industry.
When it was pointed out that sexual assault victims should not be identified, he said, "It doesn't matter if I have used the name. You have put out her name everywhere. Do not hide the name as there is nothing wrong with it. If you want to call her Draupadi, call her Draupadi. Don't call her 'a female'."
Kumaramangalam said the actor's statement revealed the "patriarchal mindset" among "VIPs, big guys...whether they are in politics or not in politics".
"It also shows lack of humility in him and that's what we are going to say (in the letter). It is very arrogant to say that somebody else has said it so I will say it too," she said, adding that the letter would be sent soon.
Haasan, is "undoubtedly a brilliant actor, but that doesn't give him the right to say something "so insensitive", said Kumaramangalam.
Section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code bans the disclosure of the identity of victims of certain offences, including sexual assault, barring specified circumstances.
Violation of this can be punished with a fine or imprisonment which may extend to two years.
"He (Kamal Haasan) can't be booked by us but someone else like the victim herself or fans can lodge a protest. The police can do it on their own also. When someone like him who has billions of fans says something like this, it sets a bad precedent," said Kumaramangalam.
The NCW chief also said all that the actor had to do was apologise. "If he has made a mistake it won't make him small to say that 'I am sorry'. In fact, he doesn't even need to use the word 'sorry' -- he could just say, 'I didn't mean to say it'. People of his stature should have the common sense and humility to understand the sensitivity of such situations," she said.
Kumaramangalam, who conceded that she felt "strongly" about public figures being "insensitive", had issued a notice to actor Salman Khan for "trivialising rape" in a press meet in Mumbai last July.
Haasan's reference was to an actress of Malayalam films who was abducted and raped in February this year.