The report, which is touted to shed light on the discrimination and harassment faced by female artists in the Malayalam film industry, has been kept out of the public domain.

A picture collage that shows Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with members of WCC like Parvathy, AnjaliPinarayi Vijayan with WCC, Justice Hema
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The Justice Hema Committee report on the Malayalam film industry has not seen the light of day since its submission to the Kerala government on December 31, 2019. Retired Justice Hema, who led the government-appointed committee, spoke to TNM and made it clear that the report has to remain confidential. She also said there was no attempt to protect perpetrators but the women who spoke to the committee and shared experiences of harassment are free to disclose it openly, if they prefer to do so.

“Confidentiality was maintained by the Committee from the very beginning. We were scrupulously avoiding media and publicity, and not giving any interview or bytes during our term, to protect the interest of all concerned and to do our job peacefully without any external interference,” Justice Hema said.

When it was pointed out that women from the film industry, especially those who are members of the Women in Cinema Collective, have said that they want the report published with just their names redacted, but all other details intact, Justice Hema said, “Many women confided in us many confidential matters, on the assurance given to them that we would keep everything confidential. Further, it was also necessary to keep them confidential, in the procedure adopted by the Committee to collect all relevant materials for an effective study of all the issues.

Are the rights of the women who faced discrimination and abuse, and opened up to the committee being denied justice? To this, Justice Hema said, “If any woman wants to speak out whatever they told us, including the names of perpetrators, they are free to do so, even now.” When asked about allegations that not making the report public was in turn helping perpetrators, Justice Hema categorically denied it and said there was no such attempt to protect any perpetrator.

The report, which is touted to shed light on the discrimination and harassment faced by female artists in the Malayalam film industry, has been kept out of the public domain due to its ‘extra-confidential’ status based on retired Justice Hema’s recommendation. The Kerala government has not tabled the report in the Assembly either, which raised several questions — did the government call for a report for political mileage; is the government serious about gender justice; is the government trying to protect the perpetrators in the industry? 

The opposition Congress has alleged several times that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met members of WCC and later formed the committee just for political mileage. Justice Hema however is of the view that the Kerala government is “very serious about the report.”

“In my experience, the government is very serious about it. In fact, immediately after handing over the report, on my request, Minister AK Balan found time to hold a meeting with the committee and discuss all relevant matters in detail, despite all his busy schedule. From what transpired that day, I am fully convinced that the government is genuinely interested in proceeding further, to implement the suggestions made by the committee,” she said.

“These facts are known to WCC also. I have conveyed all these facts and more in detail to the prominent members of WCC who met me at my office. The report is very clear about the solutions suggested by the committee for the various issues faced by any person in the film industry. They are in bullet points. Any person who is aggrieved by anything in the film industry can approach the Tribunal for redressal of their grievances,” she added.

She further added that she does not think that the committee was formed to increase political mileage. 

 

When asked about the delay in acting on the recommendations, Justice Hema attributed this to the pandemic, flood and election in the state. “Also, the report being the first of its kind in the entire world, it may not be quite easy to draft and enact the statute immediately. Let's hope it will come soon,” she said.

She added, “I do believe that if the statute is brought in and a Tribunal is constituted as suggested, not only actors, but many other individuals, both women and men, working in the cinema industry and many aspirants will find a solution to their sufferings. They will get an effective forum to redress their grievances.”

Watch: WCC members Parvathy Thiruvothu and Miriam Joseph speak to TNM on the Hema Committee report

The Department of Cultural Affairs constituted the committee on July 1, 2017, in the aftermath of the incident where a prominent female actor was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a moving car. The survivor’s colleague and actor Dileep was accused of paying money to sexually assault her and record the crime on camera. 

The three-member committee included yesteryear actor Sharada and former bureaucrat KB Valsalakumari. The report was seen as a landmark effort to ensure fairness as well as gender equality and justice in the film industry. 

On February 19, 2020, Committee Chairperson Hema submitted a letter to keep the report private to keep the sexual assault actor-survivor’s identity confidential per the Supreme Court’s guidelines. 

Numerous RTI requests for a copy of the report, too, were dismissed by the government.

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