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Rina Mukherji's case against The Statesman

It is heartening that more and more women are daring to speak up about sexual abuse at the workplace. A case in point is the labour lawsuit filed by Rina Mukherji, former senior reporter, The Statesman, Kolkata, that has rocked the media fraternity for the past few months.

Rina's employment with The Statesman, Kolkata, was terminated on specious grounds when she dared to protest about the sexual harassment she was being subjected to by Ishan Joshi, news coordinator of the paper.

Recruited by the reputed media house on June 10, 2002, she braved a nightmarish battle against her harasser (both professionally and sexually) for almost over a year. Rina had taken up the Statesman job after a five-year sabbatical -- due to the birth of her daughter -- and she didn't want to risk losing it. But when all efforts to ward off Ishan Joshi failed, Rina had no choice but to verbally complain to the managing editor of The Statesman, Ravindra Kumar. But, instead of Joshi being punished, she was victimised yet again and asked to quit on October 12, 2002.

Although, initially, it was a relief not to have to face her harasser evey day, frustration and the feeling of falling prey to circumstances beyond her control, soon began to haunt her. It was not easy but she managed to overcome her trauma, and fight back.

On the advice of some friends, she got in touch with the Bengal Women Journalists' Network, the state chapter of the Network for Women in Media, India. After a brainstorming session with the Network members, protest letters were shot off to The Statesman. The Network did all it could to spread the word among concerned persons and encouraging responses have been flooding in from all parts of the country.

Though Statesman questioned the authority of the Network to stand up for Rina, it set up the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee in both its Delhi and Kolkata offices after receiving the Network's letter in February 2003.

Rina has also sought the help of the West Bengal Commission for Women. The Commission, apart from its letter to The Statesman to conduct an enquiry into Rina's sexual abuse complaints, also forwarded her case to the office of the Labour Commissioner, the police and The Human Rights Law Network (under the guidance of the Calcutta High Court's Sexual Harassment Cell). Public outcry and NGO initiatives have also added muscle to her cause.

The Labour Court is currently investigating Rina's abrupt termination of service. Whether this gutsy woman finally gets justice remains to be seen; meanwhile, Rina has become a beacon of hope and courage to women in similar situations all over India.

More on Rina's case at: Bengal Network: Rina Mukherji's case against The Statesman







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