Indian model sparks backlash after faking her own death while trying to promote awareness about cervical cancer
An Indian model has said she stands by her choice to fake her own death, insisting the decision was made with the "right intentions" to raise awareness about cervical cancer.
Poonam Pandey, 32, was thought to have died last Friday, after a message was shared to her 1.3 million followers on Instagram.
"This morning is a tough one for us," a post on Pandey's official Instagram page read.
"Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer. Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness."
But a day later Pandey revealed that she had not died and, in fact, staged her own death, working alongside the technology company Schbang, to bring greater attention to cervical cancer testing and prevention.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally and led to more than 300,000 deaths in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Pandey's actions have drawn criticism and sparked online debates around the ethicalness of staging publicity stunts.
Some social media users have called for authorities in India to take action against Pandey, labelling the stunt "disgusting" and "shameful".
The model said while she understands how her decision could have been taken in "bad taste" she urged people to "consider the greater cause".
"Before passing judgement on the act, I urge you to recognise the alarming concern burdening women worldwide," she wrote in an Instagram post.
"The sheer lack of awareness surrounding this issue was the mere reason that compelled me to take this unconventional step."
She said she has not financially benefited in any way from the stunt, adding: "I am getting a lot of comments, a lot of DMs [direct messages] where I'm seeing women are telling me that they are doing their HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccines."
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that can be found anywhere in the cervix and typically affects women under the age of 45.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from certain types of HPV.
The NHS says cervical cancer "usually grows very slowly", while the severity of your case depends on how large it is or if it has spread.
General symptoms of cervical cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding, changes to your vaginal discharge and pain during sex.
Anyone who is concerned they may have cervical cancer is urged to make an appointment with their local GP surgery as soon as possible.
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