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For 6 yrs, an actor has been fighting to remove her leaked ‘rape’ scene from porn sites

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Sona was a minor at the time of the shoot and the film’s makers had promised that the footage would be deleted after they used the relevant bits.

Seven year ago, actor Sona M Abraham acted in a Malayalam film titled For Sale. The 2013 film was about a woman ending her life after watching her little sister being blackmailed. Sona, then a 14-year-old minor, was cast as the sister and recalls having to act out a particularly uncomfortable scene. The scenes were recorded privately using a hand camera and the film’s director (Satish Ananthapuri) and producer (Anto Kadavelil) had promised that the footage would be deleted after they used the relevant bits for the film, Sona tells TNM.

The actor says that the movie had no proper script and random scenes would get shot. It was during the course of the shooting that she and her family were informed that her character would have to enact a scene where she is shown being intimate with a man who later blackmails her with the footage. Sona says they were assured that it would be a small scene and will be shot in a private room. But one year later, the entire raw footage recorded on the hand camera surfaced on the internet, particularly on YouTube, prompting Sona’s family to approach the police. What came next has been an uphill battle. It’s been over six years and Sona is still trying to get the footage taken down from the internet, revealing serious flaws in the handling of online crimes, especially against women, by authorities.

The actor recently recounted her experience in a video for WCC’s (Women in Cinema Collective)  ‘Refuse the Abuse’ campaign which speaks about online gender justice, trolling and cyberbullying among other issues. “In 2014, I had approached the Ernakulam City Police Commissioner’s officer to get the clipping removed from YouTube. The officials said that YouTube would take down the scene if they sent a request letter signed by the Commissioner. At the time, they did not lodge an FIR or take down a complaint,” Sona tells TNM.

Although the scenes were temporarily removed from YouTube, they resurfaced quickly enough and spread to other sites — including porn websites and social media, where porn clippings were spliced with shots from the footage in question. By releasing the entire footage, the actor says that the scenes have been taken out of context and are now vulnerable to misinterpretation. “The raw footage includes behind the scenes clips including conversations I had with the director. It now looks like we were shooting for an adult film, when that was not the case at all,” she says.

Sona and her mother then filed a complaint at the Ernakulam North Police Station in 2016, naming For Sale’s director, producer and editor as the accused. They are not sure as to why someone would have leaked the clip. Sona recalls some bitterness with the producer during the shoot, however it was nothing serious. She says that after the video was leaked, she and her mother had confronted the producer but he refused to take any responsibility for this.

“If you look at the context of the scene in the story, it was a rape. They told us that only a 30 second clipping will be used. The footage would not have leaked without their knowledge as they held the rights to it. Hence, adding them to the FIR seemed appropriate. I also requested in the complaint that the scenes be taken down from the internet. My complaint was transferred to the cyber cell and I was promised that action would be taken,” Sona adds.

Although the actor says that the police did get the footage removed from the internet, it did not effect lasting change as the scenes would immediately resurface.

However, the FIR lodged at the North Station only charged the accused under minor sections of IPC 500 (defamation) and the Kerala Police Actor section 119 (b) (taking photos or recording videos or propagating them at any place in a manner affecting the reasonable privacy of women).

“I was a minor when the film was shot and when the recorded footage was leaked. This would attract relevant sections of POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act as well as the Information Technology (IT) Act section 67 B. The sections were not added and it helped the accused acquire a station bail soon after their arrest,” Sona says.

Finally, the actor approached the Kerala High Court with a writ petition in 2016, asking for the footage to be erased from the internet and demanding that stronger sections be added to the FIR against the film’s director, producer and editor.

After sharing her experience in the video for Refuse the Abuse campaign, the actor, who is now a 5th year law student, has received considerable attention. She confirmed that she received calls from the Women’s Commission in Kerala and the Hi Tech cell of the Kerala police which deals with cyber crimes.

Actor Parvathy wrote, “Sona, I draw immensely from your strength. I know how it feels to feel fear in my bones and yet, constantly choose to remain brave. There is so much stacked up against us. Such a steep uphill battle. Nevertheless, when you choose to breathe through it and forge your path ahead, you are breaking generational curses. You’ve given me immense strength and calm. Thank you. It aches me to know what you’ve had to go through and I cannot imagine the pain you have had to endure. You are not alone, though. I’m right here with you!

Thank you Sona. For being you and for speaking up!”

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