NWMI Members Weigh in on #MeToo
Several NWMI members have been consistently reporting on various aspects of sexual harassment, and naturally, a flood of stories followed during the wave of revelations from September 2018 onwards. Following is a glimpse of this reportage.
Danger of inter-generational feminist argument hijacking #MeToo
By Ranjona Banerji
It took a week for the Times of India to respond to allegations of sexual harassment against its Hyderabad resident editor KR Sreenivas. The Hindustan Times was faster with Prashant Jha who has “stepped down from a leadership role”. These are just two names.
We must therefore confront what we did not do but also work out what to do next. From all accounts, neither internal complaint platforms nor Vishakha-guided committees have provided redressal in newsrooms. In several cases, the HR departments are the worst offenders.
The silence, the protection of the perpetrator has to stop…
There is a real danger of an inter-generational feminist argument hijacking this very important #MeToo movement. Younger women are comparatively fearless, and many evidently refuse to internalise as earlier generations had done. Even women in their 40s find themselves at the receiving end of young wrath, so forget about women in their 50s like me and those who are older.
It will be difficult because people we know will be uncloaked as sexual predators and enablers. We will know their families and we will feel the consequences. But there is no option now but to listen to the women who are speaking and acknowledging their pain. Contrary to trash talk, no woman in the media has benefitted from complaining. Usually, it has come at deep personal and professional cost.
What role must men now play or how must they reset their attitudes. Convenient words of apology are not enough. For now, speak up and support.
(Full article here: MxMIndia.com on Oct 9, 2018)
Abuse, Cover-Ups and Silence
Edwin and Anita Cheria
The Year 2018, was an annus horribilis for the Roman Catholic Church in India, particularly Kerala.
Cover-ups, as even children know, are evidence of institutional complicity rather than individual weakness: The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC), Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and Cardinal Oswald Gracias all played their part.
Where does one start? With the sexual abuse and rape of a housewife by a group of priests? Priests violating the confidentiality of the confessional and defiling the sacraments of confession and marriage? The repeated sexual abuse of a nun by a bishop, or the shower of petals that greeted the accused bishop on his release.
Never in living memory has the idiotai (as the faithful are derisively referred to) been so thoroughly exposed as idiots. Why else did Cardinal Alencherry think he could get away with denying knowledge of the abuse? This is despite the fact that the nuns had come to him and he had prayed over them.
The brotherhood first feigned ignorance of the issue – the infamous Alencherry tapes put paid to that lie. A priest offered to buy out the survivors and was caught on tape, and is under police investigation.
Despite the sister survivor knocking at every ecclesiastical door, there was no response. These include personal complaints and letters to priests, bishops and the papal nuncio (ambassador) to India. Even the Pope himself was hand-delivered a letter at the Vatican. A letter with 1,000 signatures of the faithful, appraising him of the facts and pleading for his intercession.
All to no avail. The police investigation into the false case filed by Bishop Mulakkal is what finally led to the case being filed. The sister survivor was forced to part with copies of the letters written to the church authorities during this investigation.
(For full article: The Wire on Jan 4, 2019)
Questions on the ‘Me Too’ movement answered
Some FAQs to help you understand #MeToo better.
- Why did she not speak when the incident happened?
If this question is specific to Tanushree Dutta’s allegation about Nana Patekar which triggered the new bout of #MeToo, you should know that the actor had spoken up about it in 2008 as well. She had also filed a police complaint. Despite video footage of her car being attacked (which she said was at the behest of Nana Patekar), Tanushree’s allegation was dismissed as a “tantrum”.
- Why is she speaking now?
The #MeToo movement is one of solidarity and sisterhood. The premise of the movement is that survivors will be believed and their stories will be heard with empathy. This has given a lot of women the courage to speak up.
- Why does she want to be anonymous when she’s naming the perpetrator?
Many of the men who have been accused of sexual harassment at the workplace are in a position of power to influence the career of a survivor. If you go through the stories that women have been sharing in the #MeToo movement, you will understand how this happens – the perpetrator may isolate the woman colleague at the workplace, ensure that her work is undermined, stop promotions and pay hikes, and deny opportunities for growth. She may even lose her job.
- Why doesn’t she just quit and leave if it’s that bad?
Not everyone is in a position of privilege and financial security to take such a decision. Besides, considering how prevalent a problem sexual harassment is, what is the guarantee that the same issue will not crop up at a new workplace? The perpetrator, who is in a position of power, may be able to stop her career growth even if she leaves the organisation and goes elsewhere.
- Where’s the proof?
Several women in the #MeToo movement have shared screenshots of conversations and emails that their perpetrators have sent them, which clearly suggest sexual harassment. In many cases, one woman’s story about a particular man has encouraged others also to speak up about him.
In some cases, their testimonies have been supported by others who knew of the incident when it happened. For instance, in Tanushree’s case, journalist Janice Sequeira has confirmed the series of events. AIB has issued a formal statement, accepting that the organisation knew about the sexual harassment charges against one of its members. Phantom Films was recently dissolved after Anurag Kashyap admitted that he knew about his partner Vikas Bahl sexually assaulting a woman.
- Isn’t it unfair to the man?
Men accused of sexual harassment have seldom paid the price for it. In many industries, people are already aware about the behaviour of such men which tends to follow a pattern.
When an accusation is made, a process of fair inquiry must be initiated. However, many organisations do not have a functioning Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as mandated by law for workspaces that have at least 10 employees. In instances where there is an ICC, it’s often the case that the accused man is either a part of it or is in a position to influence it.
- What about false allegations?
The #MeToo movement is neither perfect nor organised by any institution. It’s often an organic process where a survivor starts speaking, triggering an outpouring from others. There is certainly a possibility that a false allegation can be made. However, considering the fact that existing legal processes in the country are weighed heavily against the survivor, the possibility is negligible. This is especially so when the survivor has put her name to the allegation and is running a huge risk to her career and personal life.
(For full article: The News Minute on Oct 10, 2018)
Breaking the cycle of abuse
Reading accounts of sexual harassment by so many brave women has forced me to rethink my own silence at being molested by a powerful politician — a minister in the UPA I government.
No, sexual harassment is not limited to BJP ministers.
I shifted to Delhi to join The Asian Age’s main edition in February 2006 after the Ahmedabad edition was shut down. During my time, a Cabinet minister, in-charge of one of the ministries which I was covering, would always greet me with a kiss when I went to meet him.
He is actually quite a media favourite. I had seen him greeting women journalists with a hug when he met them, so I thought that hugs and kisses were the norm in Delhi.
I met him infrequently, maybe once a month when I was covering his ministry, and I always met him in his office. He would hold my face and try to kiss me on the mouth. Most times, I managed to turn my face slightly. But I did not report it since I was new in Delhi and thought it would be viewed as my small-town mentality.
Also, as a survivor of long-term Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), I am not able to speak up against authority. Only recently, have I learnt that CSA survivors have boundary issues, and are many more times likely to get re-victimised as adults. Once, in early 2014, I was sitting in his office in his MP bungalow. I was between jobs. I was sitting across the table and talking to him. After some time, the minister got up to go to the washroom which was to my left, so he walked right across the table and while passing me by, he stretched his hand and suddenly pressed one of my breasts.
Taken aback, I said, ‘Don’t touch me.’ Before entering the washroom, he asked, ‘Why? What is the problem?’ I told him, ‘Don’t touch me, because I don’t like it’. He went to the washroom, came back, and resumed the conversation as if nothing had happened.
(For full article: DailyO, Oct 16, 2018)
Will the New Year herald a brave new world in workplaces?
The #MeToo moment appears to have passed. Or has it? There is little doubt that the torrent of naming and shaming disclosures that inundated the Indian media, especially social media, for several weeks from early October appears to have abated.
However, as the New Year approaches, there is still a steady stream of allegations highlighting sexual misconduct in workplaces, some involving high profile names in prestigious professions.
The genie of sexual harassment has undoubtedly been let out of the bottle by the second wave of the #MeToo movement in India. The resignation of a Union minister after days of attempted bluster and bravado signalled that even the high and mighty may no longer be able to get away with sexual delinquency.
This has clearly been empowering for women who have suffered in near silence.
However, many women probably still hesitate to do so, especially if they are socially and economically disadvantaged and do not live in big cities that offer relative anonymity as well as the possibility of connecting with others with similar experiences.
A laudable effort in this direction was made by several unions in Bengaluru in November, enabling female domestic workers, municipal cleaners, bus conductors and garment workers to tell their painful stories.
The question is what happens next. Will the New Year herald a brave new world in workplaces?
Or will there be a backlash, with employers relapsing to the default position that it is best to avoid hiring women? There are indications that both scenarios are plausible.
Strategic human resources consultant Hema Ravichandar, who has written on the subject, seems convinced that strong leaders and professional organisations will recognise the value that women add to workplaces and do everything they can to prevent such hiring biases.
Interestingly, the Union home ministry recently wrote to chief secretaries across the country, directing them to ensure that police departments set up internal committees (legally mandated since 2013). If they issue instructions to other governmental agencies and enterprises, including public sector companies and nationalised banks, to ensure zero tolerance for sexual harassment, some of the largest employers in India could be transformed.
(For full article: Moneycontrol, Dec 27, 2018)
Is India’s #MeToo moment here? Women are angry and they are naming and shaming their abusers
The second wave of the #MeToo movement in India arrived at a point when the Brett Kavanaugh hearings were on in America and curiously, the women who spoke up, though separated by continents, were in the same churn of anguish and anger. In the US Christine Blasey Ford came under attack for speaking about a sexual assault allegedly by Kavanaugh in the 1980s. In India, Tanushree Dutta spoke about being allegedly harassed on a cinema set a decade ago and cast out by an industry protective of male artists. In this piece, one of the earliest that also puts together allegations against several media men accused of sexual harassment, Rituparna Chatterjee writes about why women are willing to subvert due process to make themselves heard. Within the safety of a closed Whatsapp group, women spoke about the whisper networks that have always known the men notorious for their transgressions. It started with writer Mahima Kukreja calling out comedian Utsav Chakraborty for sending her a picture of his genitalia without consent. A Mumbai-based researcher accused journalist Ayush Soni of not taking ‘no’ or an answer during a date. Soni admitted that he did not “conduct himself properly” on dates. Several women also called out journalists Mayank Jain, Anurag Verma, KR Sreenivas, and Prashant Jha for inappropriate behaviour.
(For full Article Firstpost Oct 9, 2018)
#MeToo: Women allege sexual harassment at All India Radio’s Dharamshala, Obra, Kurukshetra stations
In India’s small towns and cities, the women who lend their voice to commissioned programming on state radio are the ones forced to fall silent when they are sexually abused. In this investigative piece, journalist Rituparna Chatterjee speaks to women working for All India Radio stations in Kurukshetra, Dharamshala and Obra to outline a toxic male culture and systemic harassment. Three women narrated accounts of sexual misconduct and lack of reparation — even after going through the process of filing complaints with the IC, and in some cases, despite registering police complaints. From being allegedly kissed against their will, to sustained threats and harassment, the women working in AIR stations spoke of the failure of all internal systems that are tasked to protect them. In all the cases, the company responded by transferring the offending officials to other stations without taking any solid steps to fix the system.
(For full article: FirstPost Nov 3, 2018)
Kerala nun says she wants Church to admit she was wronged: ‘I had moments when I asked god, why me?’
When the nuns started their fight for justice, attempts to discredit the complainant swiftly followed. Anupama alleged that on November 14, 2017, Mulakkal [the accused Bishop] held her in a room for close to eight hours and tried to get her to write a letter falsely implicating the complainant. “That is when I decided that we cannot remain silent,” she said.
For the six nuns, the case is now the centre of their lives.
“I had several moments when I asked god, why me?” the complainant said. “But, after a while, I realised god had chosen me as an instrument to ensure that nuns do not suffer this way in future.”
All six nuns have faced hardships since they decided to take on the powerful within the Church. They said they have had false complaints filed against family members, had their characters and intentions questioned. More than anything, said Anupama, “We don’t like living in captivity.”
The nuns do not venture out of the convent unless it is to see a doctor. As for the complainant, she has started taking walks in the convent premises only.
The nuns are aware the court battle will be long, but they are not willing to give up the fight. “If your husband is ill, would you leave him to die?” asked one of them. “We are married to the Church that way, we know it has major illnesses and we are hoping to help it cure itself.”
For full article Scroll Dec 10, 2018)
An Alleged Tinder Rape Told On Instagram Stories And The Limits Of #MeToo
In the first screenshot, taken from a WhatsApp conversation after their date, he asks her if she has gotten home safely. K. thanks him for “a lovely night” but then says, “This is really not going to work out.”
“I love spending time with you and everything but we’re very different people. You come across as extremely dominant in bed and that’s just something I can’t deal with. I really can’t deal. I’m sorry,” she writes.
The man wrote in an attached note: “I’ll leave it to the subject matter experts to comment whether victims usually text their abusers to say they had a lovely time.”
The differing interpretations of this conversation are in many ways exactly what #MeToo has revealed online.
For many men K.’s story sums up the modern nightmare: What if, three years after a bad date, someone turns around and describes an awkward sexual encounter with them as rape?
But for others, the story rings true precisely because women recognize that sweet-talking a bully, backing away as you repeat the word “no,” is a way of staying safe (and in some cases, alive) by being nice to the person who could hurt you. It speaks to the way women frequently experience “awkward sexual encounters”.
On paper, rape seems black and white — women should be traumatized, cry, report the crime, and retain all the proof necessary for conviction. Otherwise, how can we know they are not lying? But as the millions of women saying #MeToo have demonstrated, the truth is rarely that simple.
(For full article BuzzFeed Aug 18, 2018)
Meet Rina Mukherji, the Woman Who Fought Against Sexual Harassment in Newsroom Before #MeToo
I could never take up full-time jobs, in spite of offers coming my way. It was tough to work on a full-time job when I had to follow up with the Women’s Commission, the police and the Labour Commissioner’s Office. Following which, there were hearings in Court and travelling between cities. But it did allow me time to write about things that I always wanted to. The period between 2002-2018 has seen me do some of my best work and earned me several fellowships from ICRS-Seaweb, Robert Bosch Stiftung, IUCN, Women Deliver, among others. I have done the kind of cover stories I have always wanted to and finally did win two Laadli awards. I have missed out on the financial security of a monthly salary, but have managed to build up an admirable repertoire of professional writing as a freelance journalist.
(For full article News 18 Oct 13, 2018)
#MeToo: My journey for justice and the cost of ‘due process’: Rina Mukherjee
Irked by my complaint, (Ishan) Joshi now called on me to resign, on grounds of “not fitting the bill”. By then, I had decided to fight it out, and so I refused to resign. On Dussehra day, October 2002, I was terminated by The Statesman; this was a little before my probation was scheduled to get over.
Although happy to escape the daily harassment, the entire ordeal began revisiting me in the weeks that followed, leaving me an emotional wreck. This was when I learnt of Sanhita, a non-governmental organisation that worked on cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. After dilly-dallying for over a month, Sanhita excused itself from the case, citing constraints involved when dealing with “a big media house”.
However, Sanhita helped me get in touch with Ananya Chatterjee and Rajashri Dasgupta of the newly-formed Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) who took up my case with The Statesman which, in spite of being one of the oldest media houses in India, had not complied with the Vishaka Guidelines of the Supreme Court that had been passed as far back as 1997.
(For full article Newslaundry Nov 3, 2018)
Ford and Datta: study in contrast
In Karnataka, there is a lady civil judge who sent complaints in writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Justice of India and the President, against the inappropriate behaviour and advances of her senior who was to be elevated to the Karnataka high court, on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium. It is a sign of the post-Vishaka guidelines times, the impact of the so-named Nirbhaya rape case and again, the “MeToo” movement that this complaint was taken seriously by the PMO.
But the Karnataka high court has since conducted an internal inquiry and cleared the senior judge’s name. The lady judge was not questioned on her side of the story. Instead, she is facing threats, isolation and pressure to withdraw her complaint the judge.
(For full article Deccan Herald Oct 3, 2018)
Me Too: Why many women don’t speak out about sexual abuse ‘immediately’
…That Nandhini* had outed a predator in [her] organisation had spread, and the then-21-year-old was desperately looking to get a new job as the environment in the newspaper she worked with was getting uncomfortable. The senior television journalist added her on Facebook, praised her courage for outing her predator, and on the pretext of setting up a meeting with his wife – he took her to his house and sexually assaulted her…
“I thought this was the best thing to do for self-preservation. Now I know it’s this culture of silence that allows men to get away with impunity and predatory behaviour,” Nandhini says, days after she spoke up about the assault for the first time in a #MeToo post…
There is a power differential between the survivor and the perpetrator; survivors risk losing their livelihood if their perpetrator is a powerful man in the same industry, and for many women, redressal mechanisms are not immediately apparent…
Bollywood writer-producer Vinta Nanda, who accused actor Alok Nath of rape 19 years ago, [says], such behaviour was normalised. “It was not considered ‘wrong’ anyway, so what will you go and report?” she asks, “Now there is a provision for ICCs (Internal Complaints Committees) – back then there were no platforms for redressal.”
…That most of the voices that have been heard in this wave of #MeTo in India shows how difficult it is for marginalised women, men, and non-binary folks to speak up. “The culture of silence needs to stop, then hear us survivors out. Without shaming us. Without judging us,” says Nandhini.
…We need to dismantle power structures that enable such sexual violence.
(For full article The News Minute Oct 7, 2018)
As Sabarimala reopens doors, women journalists who were harassed for reporting from the scene, speak out
As the Sabarimala temple reopened its doors on 5 November, the second time since the Supreme Court verdict permitting women’s entry — an ‘appeal’ did the rounds of media houses. Circulated by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, the missive urged news outlets not to send female journalists to cover the yatra.
They were actually saying: “Send women reporters at your own risk. If they are injured, we are not responsible. Blame it on the hurt sentiments of the devotees.”
Republic TV’s south India bureau chief Pooja Prasanna unwittingly became the “face” of the intrepid women journalists who reported on the Sabarimala pilgrimage. Visuals of her car being destroyed by violent ‘devotees’ as she pleaded with the crowd to let her go made for prime time news.
Every female journalist who had been deputed to cover the temple’s opening was harassed and forced to return. The police — meant to protect these journalists — were unprepared for what unfolded, and in most cases, could only watch helplessly on. [She feels] the cops may have pleaded helplessness because they intrinsically agreed with those protesting women’s entry into Sabarimala.
Pooja recalls telling a policewoman how surprised she — a veteran of conflict situations — was, by the mob’s aggressiveness. The policewoman replied: “That is the power of Ayyappa. He will give his devotees strength to protect him.”
“We became the story,” says Pooja . “This was not how it should have been… If we go back today, we are all ‘known’ faces and are more vulnerable to attack. This is even truer for women journalists from Kerala who can be recognised on the streets.”
(For full article FirstPost Nov 5, 2018)
Judge To Worker: The Spread Of Sexual Harassment In India
In the lower courts, lawyers can speak disrespectfully–addressing a woman judge with tu or tum (you)–or pass sexual slurs and personal remarks, not directly to the judge but within her hearing, said a woman magistrate (not the one mentioned above) who asked not to be named.
“Most of us ignore it,” she said. When they speak up or complain, women magistrates are often cajoled by the bar and even their male colleagues on the bench to ‘compromise’, accept an apology and just move on. “I am not aware if there is a forum for judges to report sexual harassment complaints,” said the woman magistrate.
“Male judges are also a part of society. In the higher courts, they are simply not sensitive to what is happening,” she said.
In 2014, a woman judge in the district and sessions court of Madhya Pradesh made charges of sexual harassment against High Court judge S K Gangele. A three-judge Supreme Court committee found “insufficient evidence” against him.
In April 2015, 58 Rajya Sabha MPs signed a motion seeking Gangele’s impeachment and the then Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari appointed a three-member team of jurists that submitted its report to Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu in September this year. Meanwhile, the woman judge quit her job back in 2014.
(For full article IndiaSpend Nov 18, 2017)
Women In North East India Are Saying #MeToo. Are You Listening?
A decade before the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was enacted, Sabita Lahkar kicked up a storm in Assam by filing a police complaint against Amar Assom Editor, Homen Borgohain. Borgohain is a renowned poet and recipient of the 1975 Sahitya Akademi Award.
Lahkar, a journalist in Guwahati since 1988, also wrote to the Assam State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Commission for Women (SCW) and the President’s Office. However, she received no relief despite the overwhelming support from journalists across the country and SHRC ordering Amar Assom to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within three months.
“The media house conducted an internal inquiry but never called him in for questioning. Borgohain asked me for proof but there’s no proof I can furnish for an incident that happened behind closed doors,” she told NewsCentral24x7.
She says her only proof is that after she raised a verbal complaint to the then Executive Editor, Manoj Goswami, he altered her reporting line. “I started reporting to him and the News Editor, Pranay Bordoloi, until they both left in 2002”, she said. Soon after, she said, Borgahoin resumed his harassment.
“I tendered my resignation to him and he did not comment or respond. So I went to his office on 4 September and he said that I could continue if I was willing to comply with his requests. That’s when I reached my boiling point and lost it in front of all my colleagues in the newsroom”. She quit shortly after and filed a complaint at the Paltan Bazaar police station on 17 September 2003.
(For full article NewsCentral Oct 22, 2018)
#MeToo is everybody’s business
Barely a month before Tole’s breakthrough session in March, Gagandeep Kang, a clinician scientist and executive director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) in New Delhi, made headlines for terminating the employment of a well-known immunologist, on grounds of sexual harassment. The first woman to head the organisation, she wasted no time in addressing the complaint made by an employee.
The task was onerous indeed — right from setting up an ICC with the right qualifications, including an external member, to learning to “operationalise” the Vishaka guidelines, and ensuring that the recordings of the sessions were accurate and could stand scrutiny in court. The accused was sent on leave while the case was being heard and the complainant was assured of a safe working environment, recalls an insider who watched from the ringside the events unfolding at the institute.
(For full article Hindu BusinessLine Jan 4, 2019)
Bringing #MeToo to its logical finale
Today, the spate of accounts has elicited surprisingly swift and positive reaction. Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd and Hindustan Times have announced that they will institute enquires on the allegations against Sreenivas and Jha. Adhikari has resigned from his position as a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress. Journalist Mayank Jain has resigned. The Cine and Television Artistes Association (CINTAA) has apologised for the past committee’s handling of Datta’s complaint and issued notice to actor Alok Nath over the rape charge.
Comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) has cut off its association with writer Utsav Chakraborty and its founder-member and CEO Tanmay Bhat has been told to step away from his role. Phantom Films was dissolved after partner and director Vikas Bahl was accused of harassment of a female crew member. And the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) dropped AIB’s Chintu Ka Birthday and Rajat Kapoor’s Kadakh from its forthcoming film festival in Mumbai.
But while these are extremely encouraging signs that the media world is taking note of the groundswell of opinion against workplace harassment, there is a greater need than ever to discuss how the complaints will be handled, the transparency with which procedures will be laid down and the secure environment in which the complainants will be given an opportunity to depose.
(For full article The Tribune Oct 11, 2018)
- India’s #MeToo moment
On the foundation of the path-breaking Vishaka judgement, was built the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, which was almost 16 years in the making. The emphasis on prevention, underlined by feminist activists and lawyers who were involved in drafting this civil legislation, was an attempt to bring about a change in male mindsets of entitlement and privilege and create awareness around the insidious manner in which sexual harassment, abuse of power and a hostile work environment impeded women’s ability to function professionally. The new civil law also provides relief measures such as transfer of the accused, change of work location if the aggrieved wished it, leave, and “other relief” measures, none of which are provided for under criminal law. Unfortunately, however, the Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) set up under the Act, armed with the powers of a civil court, ended up replicating the adversarial criminal justice system, with its hostile procedures for cross-examination; demand for proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and “irrefutable evidence”, which is a challenge in cases of sexual violence. Likewise, while ICCs were vested with the powers of a civil court, some of the rights of the accused such as safeguards from not incriminating oneself, have left investigations by inquiry committees floundering. Of course, an accused can choose to testify as a witness in their own defence and be cross-examined, but there is no mandatory requirement to do so under Indian law.
The tilt towards the criminal law framework while dealing with cases of sexual harassment at the workplace has involved an unnecessary and dangerous shift to establishing mens rea or criminal intent, in addition to establishing the alleged act itself. The human rights perspective which is focused on impact of the violation – that is, how the specific act is perceived and experienced by the recipient of the act – is a key element of the civil law that most ICCs fail to understand. An amendment in 2016 dropped the word ‘Complaints’ and termed the ICCs as ‘Internal Committees’, to stress that their job is not limited to inquiring into complaints, but also to ensure awareness and prevention in order to change workplace environments.
The statute of limitations in law is another stumbling block in the process. The so-called ‘delay’ in raising a complaint about sexual harassment is routinely held against women to question their credibility. It also presents a challenge in law that requires witnesses, proof and evidence. That the experience of violation and the accompanying trauma have varying effects on the victim, and could deeply affect their memories of the trauma, and their ability to coherently report it, is undebatable. In particular, when there is abuse over longer periods of time, where the harasser is in a position of power over the victim, and reporting abuse might have negative repercussions on their job, silence is usually the most common coping mechanism, and can act as a powerful survival strategy. However, with rape having no statute of limitations, the developments in the case of rape filed by Vinta Nanda against actor Alok Nath will be closely watched as they will set a precedent in how Indian courts interpret delay in filing a complaint, and how it impacts testimony of the victim. A progressive understanding of sexual assault and victim testimony is likely to set the trend for future disclosure.
It is the spectacular inadequacy of ‘due process’ that has forced women to speak out publicly, in the hope of finally getting justice.
(For full article Himal SouthAsian Nov 13, 2018)
#MeToo Makes Media Report on Itself
The provisions against sexual misconduct aren’t clearly laid out in many organizations. A Columbia Journalism Review study says 80% of freelancers wouldn’t know how to report instances of sexual misconduct even if they wanted to. The process mandating requirements of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, becomes bureaucratic in bigger organizations. In smaller organizations, one hears sniggers even by well-meaning male bosses on the actual implementation of the Act. This moment begs that organizations abide by the demands of their women employees, like the ones laid out by the Network of Women in Media, India.
When the Women’s Media Center released its findings earlier, it also revealed that the #MeToo movement had driven up the articles on sexual assault by 30%. When articles about just #MeToo are added, the total coverage is up 52 percent. This is why we can’t let this #MeToo period pass just yet. It is clear that, in these times, the only antidote to this brazenness against women journalists seems to be this movement, which, at least, has democratized the issue across family WhatsApp groups and initiated some action against perpetrators by those in power. This period is equally empowering as it is distressing. We are still a wide distance from shifting patriarchal power structures that carry these diseases, but we can be one step closer to, at least, according to women journalists, the conditions to simply do the job they love.
(For full article SheThePeople Oct 13, 2018)
21. The BCCI must pull up its socks
The BCCI is currently trying to disentangle itself and one of its employees from the #MeToo shock waves that are running through Indian public life. The due process, which needs to take its course in regard to the board’s CEO, Rahul Johri, who is the subject of an anonymous complaint of sexual harassment, is now underway. In the next few weeks the BCCI’s legal team will study Johri’s explanation, which he has been given a week to file; if required, so will the BCCI’s internal complaints committee. The onus on them – and indeed on the BCCI’s Committee of Administrators (CoA), as well as its president, CK Khanna; secretary, Amitabh Chaudhary; and treasurer, Anirudh Chaudhry – is great because the BCCI’s wider dispute-resolution mechanism is broken. The board is currently without an ombudsman to deal with disputes relating to finance, contracts, detriments caused, misconduct and indiscipline. […]
Why is this process important? Because the CEO of the wealthiest, most high-profile sports organisation in India, and the richest board in cricket, which owns the world’s seventh richest media rights property (the IPL), has an allegation – though anonymous – against him of sexual harassment. In the #MeToo era, a string of predatory men across fields – business, entertainment, sport, culture, politics – have found themselves in the dock of social media and public perception, facing consequences of one kind or another. Whether they are innocent or guilty, the processes in place not only need to be thorough and rigorous, they need to be seen to be so. […]
In the Johri case, what Indian cricket and the BCCI’s staffers need is clarity from a proactive administration. To start with, the board could move ahead, as some other organisations have done in cases like this, despite the lack of a complaint. *The internal committee cannot act on a case against the head of the organisation itself, and must ideally move it to the local government committee, relating to sexual harassment. Yet now what the BCCI can be pushed to do is set up an external body that will, for one, reach out to the anonymous complainant. It may be beyond the strict definitions of the rule book, but this is a chance to find the sunlight that can disinfect the arena.
(For full article ESPN Cricinfo Oct 19, 2018)
Additional links to coverage by NWMI members of different sectors, uncovering and analyzing various dimensions of sexual harassment at the workplace:
Media: Rituparna Chatterjee (Firstpost, Oct 12, 2018)
Media: by Ranjona Banerji (News Central 24×7, Oct 15, 2018)
#MeToo: MJ Akbar’s Case Against Priya Ramani Is A Shameful Attempt At Scaring Not Only Her, But Countless Other Women
- The Church: by Anita Cheria (The News Minute, Oct 26, 2018)
- Classical Music: Sowmya Rajendran (The News Minute, Oct 12, 2018)
- Sports: Sharda Ugra (ESPN Cric Info, Jul 17, 2018)
- Film Industry: Gita Aravamudan (Firstpost Oct 28, 2018)
- Film Industry: Anna MM Vetticad (The Quint Oct 30, 2018)
- Advertising industry: Rituparna Chatterjee (Firstpost Nov 20, 2018)
- Child Sexual Abuse and sexual harassment: Sonal Kellogg (Daily O, Oct 20, 2017).
- Historical perspective: Ammu Joseph (Scroll Oct 12, 2018)
- Analysing the present #MeToo wave: Raksha Kumar (Open Democracy Dec 7, 2018)
- Legal analysis: Namita Bhandare (Foreign Policy, Oct 17, 2018)
- Moving Beyond: Ammu Joseph (Money Control Oct 16, 2018)