What is #Spotlight?
#Spotlight is an attempt to collate experiences, opinions and resources on sexual harassment in the Indian media and newsrooms. Indian media was hit by a storm of allegations of sexual misconduct in October 2018. The project provides a spotlight on this industry. Through the database and resources, it also seeks to present insights on sexual harassment in Indian media.
Does media as an important torchbearer of facts and information throw light into the shortcomings in addressing sexual harassment in its own newsrooms? #Spotlight takes a hard look at this. Women in Indian media have taken to social media to call out senior editors, producers and other male colleagues. We look at whether this is a belated arrival of the #MeToo movement in India. Do laws and policies in India against sexual harassment at the workplace address some of the current allegations being made by women? Does this moment of outrage take into account experiences of women journalists across all regions? The Project takes a deep dive into these issues and provides resources and insights on sexual harassment at the workplace.
Is #Spotlight a response to #MeToo?
The Twitter storm in the first week of October 2018 with women calling out influential men for sexual misconduct has been an important source of the database of the cases documented here. The current discussions around #MeToo in India do not address women journalists working in small towns, rural areas and regional media. Their everyday experiences of harassment in the workplace are difficult to record and document. The Project acknowledges some of these struggles of women journalists working in isolation and with no or little access to resources in small town India.
The second wave of the #MeToo movement gained momentum in India in October 2018; this Project is an attempt to go beyond that. It takes into account the debates around #MeToo and also provides a historical background to the debates and laws around sexual harassment in the workplace in India. International movements and key events that have triggered the recent allegations have also been captured.
What does the database of cases point to?
The cascade of recent allegations against prominent men in Indian media have raised questions around consent and complicity. Influential men have been called out and the spontaneous outpourings have been cathartic and empowering for complainants. There is a belief that they are being heard. This takes into account the fact that the discourse has moved from the 1980s when there was no vocabulary or mechanism to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. This was also a time when ‘victim blaming’ was common and the onus of proving an allegation was on the complainant rather than the accused. The current allegations point to managements of media organisations to address sexual harassment as a systemic problem that is plaguing newsrooms.
The current spate of allegations made are also forcing those accused and media as an industry to respond with sensitivity to the hostile newsroom environment for women. Responses and apologies of those accused and of the media institution have been documented in this project.
#Spotlight provides information and raises questions about the current legislation to address sexual harassment in the workplace. In 1992, the rape of Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan and the subsequent humiliation in the legal fight gave momentum to the need for a legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace. Taking note of this, the Supreme Court passed the landmark Vishaka Judgement in 1997. Despite a strengthening of the legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace in 2013, few cases have been reported or registered by complainants. Do the current spate of allegations point to gaps in the legislation?
What are the takeaways from #Spotlight?
The database points to many patterns in the nature of sexual misconduct in Indian media. Harassment of junior reporters and those starting their careers by senior editors and prominent men is a pattern that can be seen across several cases. This raises the need to give women and juniors in the industry a safe and enabling working environment.
Why has it taken so long for women to call out male colleagues and acquaintances in newsrooms? In many cases abusers have been called out by complainants after two or three decades. This also points to the fear of facing severe professional repercussions and backlash in the media industry. How do newsrooms make the work environment conducive and professional for women at different levels? What proactive mechanisms can be put in place by the industry to address this gap?
In most cases reported, complainants have not resorted to the existing legislation to address sexual harassment. They have also not registered formal complaints. Whisper networks and informal solidarity among complainants have provided more support than legal mechanisms. Do complainants hope to see amendments in the existing legislation and procedures on sexual harassment in the workplace?
From the cases documented, it is also clear that the accused have enjoyed impunity over several decades. As more women enter the media industry in India, what is the culture that newsrooms should foster to ensure a safe and equal working environment? What is the male-female ratio in newsrooms? Are there women in senior and editorial positions? Are beats decided on the basis of skills or gender? These are hard questions that this project raises.
What resources are available to address sexual harassment in newsrooms?
Information about existing legal, medical, psychological and community building resources and networks are available to complainants in this Project. The project documents information about due process to be followed to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
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