Couch casting for sexual abuse covered, but Hema panel report gathers dust

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It has been two years since the Justice K. Hema Commission, set up by the government of Kerala in June 2017, submitted its report. The recommendations of the commission, formed following the sexual assault of an actor in a moving car in Kochi in February 2017, are based on the fact that women in the film industry need legislative support. [The actor assault case has been grabbing media attention once again with the police raid on actor Dileep’s house following revelations by film-maker Balachandra Kumar].

There is little opposition to the argument that women in industry would be better off if they had legislation that provided for their professional and fair treatment. Despite general agreement on this aspect, very little is being done on the ground to achieve this.

The Commission, headed by former Kerala High Court Judge K. Hema, included actress Sarada and former civil servant KB Valsala Kumari among its members. The media highlighted the Commission’s delay in filing its report. Finally, a report was submitted to the government almost two and a half years after its creation.

At least some members of the film fraternity hoped that some action would be taken on the recommendations. It should be noted that the Minister of Culture and Cinema at the time, AK Balan, himself a senior official of the CPI(M), seriously tried to initiate action with the support of various industry associations. cinematographic. His initiatives failed and even discussions with film organizations did not take place.


On the casting table

Some daring movie wannabes have presented the Commission with evidence, including video and audio clips, to back up their industry casting claims. Some aspiring young actresses told the panel, directly and indirectly, that there were efforts to exploit them in more than one way. Others said there were few facilities or secure spaces to change clothes, a vital part of their daily work. The Commission was also told that often there were no toilets or decent facilities for basic personal needs. The Commission was informed that it was not uncommon to offend those who raised such claims.

The Commission found that remedial action and legislative support were the options to ensure that women are not sexually or otherwise exploited in the film industry. The commission suggested that a tribunal be established and given powers to exclude offenders for a certain period.

Drugs, alcohol, lobbying

The Commission also learned about the prevalence of drugs and other mind-altering substances in the industry and the problems faced by actresses. Various sources, including some within the fraternity, informed the Commission that the backrooms of the industry floated on alcohol and drugs and that some conscientious men, not just women, also faced problems. . There were powerful lobbies at work who worked overtime to prevent some from getting a fair chance. This sometimes affected some pretty big names as well.

She observed that the interventions of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) had a positive impact on decision makers and society as a whole. The Commission would have interacted with various stakeholders. Recommendations and advice from various industry organizations were also sought. The Commission also examines the scope of application of current laws to the sector before submitting its 300-page report.


WCC meetings with Pinarayi

The WCC had met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during his previous term. At the request of the WCC, the CM had ordered that background checks be carried out on film industry workers to document any undesirable backgrounds. The Commission was formed after that.

The WCC pointed out that women in the industry were being denied even their basic rights. They observed that the February 2017 assault on the actress in Kochi should not be considered an isolated incident. The WCC had urged the government to bring filming locations under existing anti-sexual harassment laws and form a grievance unit to deal with such complaints.

External Committee

The previous government also formed the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Committee in 2017 to study the issues facing the sector. No action has been taken on the recommendations of this committee either. It was reported that the government intended to consider the recommendations of the Hema Commission and the Adoor Committee to formulate a unified and comprehensive law. The then Minister of Culture, AK Balan, told the Assembly that a law would be enacted to ‘save the film industry’ on the key recommendation of the Ador committee – the Film Regulatory Authority of Kerala . The Minister then had talks on this subject with members of the cinema fraternity.

Actual status

Culture Minister Saji Cherian said Manorama that two people had been assigned to study the report of the Hema Commission. The Minister said further action would be taken based on the recommendations of the now delegated study team. He said efforts were being made to examine the possibility of introducing “legislation”.

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