Petition to conduct an impartial investigation into all #MeToo allegations and take action
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Being a woman in this country is hard. We have seen in the last few days the abundance of predators and people who exploit their power being outed by the brave victims and survivors of harassment and abuse. What started with Tanushree Dutta has snowballed into a huge movement with many women coming forward with their own stories of harassment. The struggle of these women is not just against their abusers, it is a struggle against people who think they can get away with abusive behaviour by exploiting their power, against a system which punishes women for not bowing down and demanding dignity, it is not just their struggle alone it is a struggle for all women.
Tanushree shared her account of being molested at a film set and faced a lot of harassment at that time for calling it out, which even included goons attacking her car. Now, after ten years when she has spoken about the incident again she is faced with the same indifference, the same non-committal response by many in the industry, and the same inaction by the authorities. But times have changed. Many actors have come out in support too. Stories about Bollywood veterans like Alok Nath, Subhash Ghai and others have shaken many people but without any concrete steps being taken to prevent such happenings in the future these will just remain stories and history will keep on repeating itself.
This can be a watershed moment in the history of women’s rights movement in India, but only if we actively work to make it so. Bollywood needs to take ownership and enact structural reforms if we are to prevent such incidents in the future. We need to set an example for all people and the future generations to come.
We appreciate the announcement made by Honourable Minister for Women and Child Development Ms Maneka Gandhi regarding the formation of a panel of retired judges to look into some cases and suggest the way forward. We also support her call to extend the statute of limitations for filing cases regarding old crimes. But we also acknowledge that this is not enough. Accountability must also come from the industry itself and the various bodies governing it. This will empower more women to come forward with their stories and create a culture of accountability and safety which till now has been lacking. It is the responsibility of the bodies governing this profession to provide for a safe working environment for all those working in this industry. This includes all staff who work behind the scenes as well, not just actors.
Some of the steps we suggest are
- Forming a panel by consensus to probe all the allegations of sexual misconduct. If found guilty of said misconduct the accused should be boycotted by the bodies as punishment and legal routes be sought. Conducting a proper investigation of the events that happened will be a step towards ensuring a safe environment.
- Internal committees to deal with harassment be made compulsory for all production houses so that future cases can be addressed. This will also provide women with a safe space for telling their concerns and addressing abusive behaviour
- A Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment should be drafted taking advice from lawyers and stakeholders. It should be added to all contracts so that persons breaching it can be made legally accountable.
- A harassment hotline should be set up where women can report incidents anonymously if they wish too.
- Guidelines should be issued to all projects to designate at least two individuals, ideally of different genders that cast/crew can approach if they are subject too or witness harassment
- Workshops on how to prevent and identify sexual harassment should be held by the various bodies in Bollywood including mandatory anti-sexual harassment training on set
We know reform comes slowly and changing mindsets is a long fight but we also know that this is a cause worth fighting for.
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