Frenchwoman arrested for 'obscene' nude video on Indian holy bridge

Swati Gupta and Maureen O'Hare, CNNUpdated 31st August 2020
This photo taken on October 2, 2019 shows people walking on the Lakshman Jhula footbridge over the Ganges river in Rishikesh. - A French woman has been arrested for making a video of herself naked on a holy bridge in the Indian city of Rishikesh, police said on August 29. The 27-year-old now faces charges under India's internet law with a maximum sentence of three years jail if found guilty. (Photo by Laurène Becquart / AFP) (Photo by LAURENE BECQUART/AFP via Getty Images)
(CNN) — A 27-year-old Frenchwoman has been arrested for making a nude video of herself on a holy bridge over India's Ganges River.
The woman, identified only as Marie-Helene, was apprehended on August 27 by local Indian police in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Lakshman Jhula is a suspension bridge about five kilometers north of the city of Rishikesh.
It is said that the Hindu deity Lakshmana crossed the Ganges on jute ropes at the point at which the bridge now stands. The river is sacred to Hinduism and flows for 1,680 miles (2,704 kilometers) through India and Bangladesh.
Senior police officer R. K. Saklani told CNN that the accused filmed the material in order to promote her jewelry business.
"She shot the video at Lakshman Jhula -- it is considered a holy bridge. She then did an obscene photoshoot at her hotel," said Saklani. "The photos she shot were nude and she posted them on Instagram."
The police were alerted to the matter when some of the woman's Indian followers recognized the bridge in the photos and video and reported the incident. A local councilor also filed a police complaint.
Saklani told CNN that in the video the woman begins by wearing a shawl, but drops it midway through filming, and appears nude with her back to the camera.
She is currently out on bail, having been charged with obscenity in a public place and with publishing obscene content online.
Marie-Helene has reportedly made a statement to French news agency AFP, writing that she had chosen "to partially uncover on (Lakshman Jhula) because each time I crossed the bridge I felt I was being harassed. My Indian sisters and fellow female travelers surely have experienced the same."
"I am sorry my actions hurt the local community," she added. "I was lacking awareness on cultural specificities."
Public nudity has also been a hot topic this week in Marie-Helene's home country of France. Women's right to sunbathe topless on the country's beaches was defended by France's interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, after police officers asked two women to wear their bikini tops while sunning themselves on Sainte-Marie-la-Mer, in southern France.
Although sexual exhibition imposed on another person in a public space is punishable in France by a €15,000 (about $17,700) fine and one year in prison, local authorities are free to set their own rules when it comes to topless or nude sunbathing.