In Solidarity with survivors of sexual harassment and condemning actions of Kochi Biennale

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All of us, the undersigned, condemn Kochi Biennial Foundation’s attempts to attack the confidentiality and anonymity of survivors of sexual assault who have spoken up against Riyas Komu, one of the founders of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).

This letter is a response to a news article dated 3 December, 2018, in the New Indian Express, that stated that KMB will consult cyber experts to track down those running and speaking up on social media against Komu (Article title: #MeToo allegation on Riyas Komu: Biennale Foundation consults cyber experts).

We believe it is brave of the survivors to speak about sexual assault of any kind. There is deep mental and physical trauma that they must negotiate before telling their stories, irrespective of their decision to disclose their identity or not. In this context, anonymity protects survivors from any form of social ostracisation, harm to their professional or personal lives and professional intimidation from the forces of power and hierarchy. At the time of the post going up, KMB did not have a functioning or robust mechanism to deal with the issues and support those affected. By approaching the Cyber Cell, KMB has undermined the painstaking steps it has taken towards protecting and standing with people who speak up. KMB’s actions can only be viewed as intimidation tactics that not only threaten to reveal the identity of survivors, but also assume them to be ‘criminals’ masterminding a plot against KMB. This is counterintuitive to everything they claim to have done since. Instead of putting energy into getting to the bottom of these allegations, KMB is busy feeling like the ‘victim’. We condemn this shirking of institutional responsibility and tokenism in KMB’s actions.

This is nothing but a mark of great disrespect towards the #MeToo movement in India. KMB has hailed itself to be people’s Biennale and, this year, have brought a range of artists who align themselves with the feminist ideology. This feels like a farce in the face of these tactics.

We, the undersigned, unequivocally stand by the platform @herdsceneand on Instagram and the survivors who have chosen to tell their stories. We believe survivors of sexual assault, we support them and promise them all the assistance they need as they fight this.