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Last Updated 13.11.2018 | 9:41 PM IST
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Open Letter: The mind-set that, a woman is a man’s property or in any way inferior has to change

I don’t think it would be wrong to say that the majority of girls in India, especially in the entertainment industry and across the globe have been a victim of some sort of sexual harassment leading to abuse in one way or the other. Then why do men and women not speak up against it? In most cases, women remain quiet due to the pressure of family and society at large. We still live in times where the society not only targets a woman that speaks up, but people also think that it brings disgrace to the family of not only the perpetrator but also the victim. The kind of victim shaming that goes around is known to all and these days’ social media has become the biggest platform for it.

Open Letter: The mind-set that, a woman is a man's property or in any way inferior has to change

Men don’t speak up due to their relationships and work equations. Also there are only a handful of men I know, who would not be a party to any such act. While there are a few names doing the rounds; there are many still in the closet. Sexual abuse and harassment is not only restricted to women, it’s prevalent irrespective of the gender. Though the names of only two directors have come out in the open right now, there are so many producers, casting directors, DOP’s, musicians and other technicians who must be baffled right now thinking it might be their turn next. On the flip side, as I write this piece I’m sure some girl or boy would be under a producer/director right now and may be getting exploited under the garb of being employed.

While all the stories are known to everyone now, we will have to look at the root cause of it; it’s much deeper than we think it is. The mind-set that a woman is a man’s property or in any way inferior has to change. Men who are not even in positions of power think it’s their birth right to dominate women.

While all these women were talking about sexual harassment in the last few days, a colleague of mine sent me a video of him masturbating and I woke up to his apology message today, after he saw my post on social media. And this is not the only incident, I remember once a well-known director almost kissed me on my neck in his inebriated state at an official party. He didn’t stop at that, after I sternly asked him to back off, he continued sending lewd messages and how he fantasised about being in bed with me. Sometime back a well-known male actor had shared his experience of how he was propositioned by a known female casting director.

I was a cub reporter when a director who was set out to make a big budget film, had decided to suddenly pounce on my lap while I was waiting to interview the actor in his vanity van.
Right now only the lone wolves are being targeted while there are so many still hiding under the closet. The issue we need to address is why is it happening and how to stop it. I’ve come to the conclusion that apologies would not lessen the evils of the situation; writing or talking about it wouldn’t do justice to the women who’ve been victims of abuse and harassment.

Sure, I would like to believe that a change will come but assessing the degree of change over the past decade, I fear it is not enough to bring about the awareness that is necessary for a significant movement. I urge women to speak up against it and men to take a stand and fight for this. It’s very easy to comment on a burning topic and be socially responsible but what matters is how we deal with it to try and fix this problem at the root level. This is the space I want to focus on till we get it right.

The importance of awareness is critical in overcoming the taboos that surround the disclosure of abuse. Only in doing so can we ever hope to progress as a society in tackling this issue from the core. If long held, traditional embarrassments of disclosing or admitting to these crimes are abolished, then there will be greater transparency in reporting and discussing of such topics. Therefore, this will pave the way for consequences and tougher punishments for these acts which will act as a deterrent to future crimes.

Asira Tarannum

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