Actor-turned-writer Twinkle Khanna has apologised for her defence of her husband, actor Akshay Kumar, who has been accused by comedian Mallika Dua of making a sexist remark on the sets of the television show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. Kumar and Mallika Dua are judges on the show, a stand-up comedy contest.

The format of the show requires the judges to ring a giant bell on the set if they approve of a comedian’s performance. After one such performance, Kumar had told Mallika Dua, “Mallika ji aap bell ko bajao, main apko bajata hoon.” Mallika Dua and her father, journalist Vinod Dua, took strong exception to the remarks, indicating they had sexist overtones. The clip in question was not aired on the channel but did the rounds of the internet.

Khanna responded to the controversy with a Twitter post in which she said the comment made by Kumar was a “colloquial phrase that both men and women use” and followed that up with a couple of jokes.

Khanna has now apologised for her initial response. “I would like to apologize to everyone who felt that I was trivializing the cause of feminism especially because I strongly believe in equality and have been a feminist from the time I was a young woman, much before I even knew the term,” she wrote on Facebook.

Khanna added that her response was “emotional” because she was “reeling from an onslaught of abuse” against several members of her family in unrelated incidents. “So when in this latest episode regarding my husband, my five-year-old was also dragged in for something that she had absolutely nothing to do with, I reached breaking point,” she continued. “And with my protective instincts in overdrive, I reacted irrationally with the only tools I have that help me retain my sanity in this fishbowl existence -words and lame jokes -though they have got me into trouble often enough in the past as well.”

In a post on Facebook on October 30, Vinod Dua had termed Khanna’s initial response a “prosaic excuse from an embarrassed wife”.