Siddique, you personally certainly don’t get to decide when an anti sexual harassment cell is to be formed on a film set.

Hey Siddique you dont get to decide when and where ICCs are necessary law does
news Controversy Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 08:55

At the nauseating press conference held on Monday by two AMMA representatives, veteran actors Siddique and KPAC Lalitha, many frustrating and illogical things were said. This press conference was largely a show of bovine defiance in response to another press conference held by the Women in Cinema Collective on Saturday, where WCC members called out AMMA and in particular, its new president Mohanlal, for their inaction against Dileep, an actor and accused in a case of rape and kidnap.

In typical AMMA style, most questions were fielded by Siddique, while Lalitha sat beside him in florid pink, her presence ostensibly meant to represent the agreement of all women with Siddique’s and AMMA’s strange views. Towards the end of the conference, when fielding questions from reporters, Siddique indicated yet another dark side of AMMA’s, or at least his, understanding of how sexual harassment takes place, and the avenues through which it is supposed to be correctly and legally addressed.

A reporter asked, “Filmmaker Aashiq Abu said all his film [sets] will now have an Internal Complaints Committee. What do you think about this?”

In a response that revealed both his abject fear of using pronouns and his deeply worrying ignorance of Indian law, Siddique retorted, “That is Aashiq Abu’s problem. Aashiq Abu is introducing an ICC. If Aashiq Abu says that in Aashiq Abu’s films an ICC needs to be introduced and such complaints are only to be made to it, that means Aashiq Abu must feel that there are that many such problems occurring on Aashiq Abu’s sets.”

Lalitha did not say anything, but wiped her face and scrutinised the trees and other objects around her.

Siddique continued emphatically, “I have never felt such a thing going on in a film set in which I have been working. When I do feel such a thing, I will think about forming an Internal Complaints Committee. Right now, that isn’t there.”

Oh Siddique. Where do we begin?

First of all, the formation of ICCs, or Internal Complaints Committees, is not “Aashiq Abu’s problem”. Aashiq Abu didn’t decide to form ICCs on his film sets because, as you suggested, an overwhelmingly huge number of cases of sexual harassment have taken place there alone. His long overdue move is in accordance with something called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, commonly known as the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, or POSH Act.

The POSH Act states that “all workplaces that have 10 employees or more are required to constitute an Internal Committee (“IC”) to deal with complaints of sexual harassment.” Film sets, almost without exception, are workplaces that necessarily employ more than 10 people.

And before you say, dear Siddique and lovers of Siddique, that a film set cannot be defined as a workplace because it isn’t an office building with four enclosing walls, let me assure you that it indeed can be, and is. Under the POSH Act, a workplace is defined as a “private sector organisation / private venture / undertaking / enterprise / institution / establishment / society / trust / non-governmental organisation / unit or service provider and places visited by employee (arising out of or during the course of employment, including transportation provided by employer for undertaking journey”.

The POSH Act is so accurate in its verbiage that it also correctly identifies your home as the workplace of your domestic worker, and has separate provisions for complaints to be made to District Level committees in cases of workplaces that have fewer than ten employees. Film sets, by any definition, firmly fall under the legal definition of a workplace, and are therefore legally required to have ICCs whether Siddique or Aashiq Abu want it or not.

Secondly, dear Siddique, you personally certainly don’t get to decide when an ICC is to be formed on a film set. You probably don’t employ anyone on a film set, you’re just an actor employed by somebody else. Your statement reveals a lot about how powerful male actors are, or think they are, if you think that the formation of an ICC is contingent upon you deciding to introduce one.

Now to address the “logic” of your reasoning that ICCs should be introduced on film sets after you or some man feels sexual harassment has already taken place there, let us explain to you how life and the law really work.

Laws are not created after the crime takes place. Laws and legal mechanisms are put in place in times of relative peace, calmness, and emotional tranquility so that we have them ready when the events they’re meant to address do eventually occur, and we’re not left scrambling in times of high emotion and confusion to form new laws and methods to address them.

So you see, India does not have a “no-first-use” nuclear policy in place because we have already engaged in nuclear warfare or faced nuclear attacks before. Business contracts establishing new companies don’t contain dissolution clauses when they are first framed because the company has already been dissolved. Employment contracts don’t have exit clauses because the employee has quit before joining. As painful as it feels to explain this so baldly, workplaces are not meant to have ICCs because they are already sites of rampant sexual harassment. ICCs are meant to be already in place so that we have a working mechanism to fall back on if and when cases of sexual harassment do occur, and in order to make women employees feel legally safeguarded in the places that they work.

Your lone presence on a film set, sir, is certainly not enough to make women feel this way, nor is it an adequate substitute for an actual, legally-mandated ICC.

The fact that so many men are reacting in abject shock right now to the sheer volume of #MeToo stories coming out at this moment is a pretty good indicator of how little men notice the reality of their women colleagues’, family members’ and friends’ lives, and perhaps how different their reality actually is from women’s.

The point is, sexual harassment does not take place only when you, Siddique, get to know about it. Being a 56-year-old, powerful male actor, you’re in fact possibly the last person on a film set to ever hear about it or experience it at all. But if a tree falls in the forest, and you are not there to hear it dear Siddique, does it still make a sound? Oh yes, believe us sir, it does. In this case, it is the sound of thousands of women worldwide roaring, unmistakably, unputdownably, “Me Too”, and there's nothing you can say or do to stem it.

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