National Human Rights Commission: The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the alleged sexual exploitation of women in the Telugu Film Industry, raised by a Television Anchor turned actress of Telugu films. As per media reports, the actress has been questioning the State government and the Movie Artists’ Association (MAA) of the Telugu Film Industry on the absence of the Committee Against Sexual Harassment (CASH) due to which, she asserts that no female can represent and seek redressal of her grievances, if there is any sexual harassment at the work place.
The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, tantamount to inaction of the part of the State government. The Commission is of the opinion that the reported prohibitions imposed upon the actress, barring her to act in the films and stopping others to work with her are violation of her right to livelihood and live a life with dignity.
Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of Telangana and the Secretary, Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The state authorities are expected to intimate about the available/proposed mechanism to the deal with the subject.
The Commission has also observed that reportedly, legal action against the actress has been taken under Section 294 IPC but it is nowhere mentioned, if action on the serious allegations of casting couch and sexual harassment, leveled by her, has been taken by the authorities. Therefore, it appears to be an attempt to muzzle the voice of whistle blower both from the sides of MAA and the State authorities.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has broadly laid down provisions to prevent sexual harassment of women at work places. As laid down in the Act, “workplace” includes not only the government organisations/offices but also private ventures. Section 2(o)(ii) of the Act reads:
“any private sector organisation or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organisation, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainmental, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or service.”
Thus, the Commission observed, the issues raised by the actress demand action on part of the State government in the form of a committee to address and redress the grievances of the female actors and women employees, in case of any sexual harassment at the work place i.e. Telugu Film Industry, in this case.
Reportedly, the actress staged a semi-nude protest outside the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce and an annoyed MAA not only dismissed her allegations but also declared that she will not be given its membership under any circumstances. The MAA, reportedly, has even moved further stating that action will be taken against any artist who decides to share screen space with her. The MAA who have filed a police complaint against the actress, have stated that action against her has been taken as per rules and they have the right to deny membership to her. The actress has been reportedly booked under Section 294 IPC (obscene act in a public place).
National Human Rights Commission