The Sandalwood film industry to has responded to the MeToo movement, with many women across industries coming forward to name their accusers or harassers. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce has its own committee to probe cases of sexual harassment, but several members of the film industry have stressed the need for a committee which is sensitive towards the complaints of women.
With more instances of harassment of women in the film industry coming to light, the Film Industry for Rights and Equity (FIRE) has appealed to the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) to refer all sexual harassment complaints they receive to FIRE’s Internal Complaints Committee.
A registered body, FIRE was formed 18 months ago by a group of people including actors, directors and technicians, who have been vocal for the need to address sexual harassment women in the industry.
The members of the ICC include the Chairperson Kavita Lankesh; director Roopa Iyer, former actor and granddaughter of veteran playwright Gubbi Veeranna, Panchami; former journalist and FIRE treasurer Rekha Rani, and actors Veena Sundar and Sruthi Hariharan. Sruthi was one of the few Sandalwood actors who spoke openly about casting couch, sexual harassment and the struggles of women in cinema. Others in the committee include Supreme Court lawyer Jayna Kothari, lawyer Maruti Jadeyar; and producer and actor Chetan Ahimsa.
FIRE submitted a letter to KFCC president SA Chinne Gowda, requesting the film chamber to divert all sexual harassment cases to its ICC for a thorough investigation.
“FIRE is an independent body and we are in the process of urging the KFCC, the various associations including the artists association, producers’ association, directors’ association and so on to transfer the complaints to us. Obviously, there is resistance from the members of the industry. The industry has been male dominant for so long that the issue of sexual harassment has not been given the importance it deserves. We are trying to change that,” said one of the ICC’s members and Sandalwood star Chetan.
Chetan said on Saturday that the ‘casting couch’ and harassment in other forms exist in the industry. “If complaints received from aggrieved parties about sexual harassment and casting couch are transferred to GSICC of FIRE, the 11-member committee will investigate, inquire in the legal framework and submit a detailed report to KFCC,” he said.
When asked why FIRE was not favouring the GSICC within KFCC, Chetan argued that KFCC is an umbrella body of the film industry and has too many responsibilities on hand.
Chinne Gowda said KFCC has a committee of representatives of various film bodies, and that they were taking up sexual harassment cases whenever approached.
Speaking to TNM, he said that he welcomes FIRE’s initiative and is ready to support them. “We have a committee of representatives of various members working in different sections of the industry. FIRE’s intention is good and I support their endeavour,” he said.
Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce president Chinne Gowda said, “FIRE’s intention is good and I support their endeavour”.
Actor Sruthi Hariharan said that women in Sandalwood have been facing multiple issues ranging from sexual harassment to unequal treatment and that the committee was meant to address such issues.
“There are many issues including sexual harassment, unequal pay, the kind of acting roles that a woman gets, among other things. Many actors do not come forward fearing backlash and not being selected for movies in the future. So far, the committee formed to address sexual harassment and issues sourrounding it did not take firm measures to ensure that the practice does not continue. The committee would convene and ask the woman to compromise. That has to change,” she added.
According to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, every organization which has more than 10 employees must have an ICC. Also, 50% of the members of this committee have to be women and there must be one external woman member.