Seven women activists from Hyderabad have moved Hyderabad High Court questioning the inaction of the Telangana government in constituting a committee to look into the complaints of sexual exploitation of women artistes in the Telugu film industry.
A petition was filed in the court by P Sandhya of the Progressive Women Organisation, journalist K Sajaya, cultural activist PA Devi, social activists Kondaveeti Satyavati, Makkapati Sumitra and researchers Dr ARV Suneetha and Tejaswini Madhabhushi.
The petitioners have requested the High Court to issue a directive to the Telangana government that a high-level committee comprising of officials from department of women, labour and home, women’s rights activists, lawyers and members of the film fraternity be constituted to recommend measures to ensure the safety and dignity of artistes in the film industry.
The petitioners state that soon after the news of the protests by actress Sri Reddy alleging sexual harassment by top directors and actors in the industry, they had made a representation to the Cinematography Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav in April to constitute a committee to look into the complaints of alleged harassment. They met the minister thrice after every fresh development in the case.
Following the representation, the minister called for a consultation to look into the matter and suggest suitable measures and recommendations. A committee headed by the chairperson of the film development corporation was also proposed.
After the proposal was made, the petitioners also met the chairperson of the TFDC who asked them to submit a representation outlining the issues to be addressed. The representation included ten points that focussed mainly on improving the condition of women at workplaces.
The State Commission of Women, too, after receiving a petition from the activists, directed the government to submit a report on the action taken.
“But despite the responses and statements made to the media, no institutional mechanism to address work place harassment have been ensued till date (sic),” the petition reads.
The petitioners have also pointed out the need to impose strict regulation on middlemen who mediate between artistes and production houses and thus reduce the scope for sexual exploitation.
The petition also comments on the sexual harassment cell that has been constituted in the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce. “Barring two sentences about whom to complain, the website has no other details on the procedures or even the members of the committee,” the petitioners allege.
Sri Reddy had created a sensation by stripping in protest outside the office of Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce in Hyderabad on April 7 against the alleged sexual harassment in Tollywood.
She also questioned the Telangana government and MAA (Movie Artist Association) on the absence of a Committee Against Sexual Harassment.
After her protests, a lot of women artistes from the lower rungs of the industry spoke about the alleged harassment they faced in the industry and how they were forced to enter into sexual transactions after being promised jobs and offers in films.