To pretend that sexual harassment at workplace isn’t just a reality, but commonly so, is like refuting the misogyny prevalent at the core of our society. A Medium post by an anonymous woman claiming that TVF’s Arunabh Kumar harassed her repeatedly is thus something to be taken extremely seriously, and not ignored just because the man being accused might be someone you look up to.
Recruiting women just to claim they ‘believe in equality’ but never bothering to providing a safe environment for them to work and flourish in, defeats the whole point of gender equality and sets a dangerous precedent for others to follow. In a country where a woman crossing the confines of her household and securing her position in a field of work which has been traditionally dominated by men, could be considered revolutionary, the assurance of safety from sexual harassment, often by those in a position of power willing to exploit those working under them, is a necessity. Since these people are often the ones making decisions which have serious consequences on the careers and lives of their subordinates, an independent and unbaised committee must be tasked with the upholding of such important employee rights.
Whether the woman (and 9 other accusers) is making substantial accusations and arguments or not, that’s for the courts to decide. But before that happens, can we at least not go on spreading false assumptions and try to shame the accuser into silence?
Why do we forget, anyone in a position of absolute power and privilege, is just as accountable as others? His popularity or power or likability doesn’t change anything about that. From Rajendra Pachauri to esteemed names in the fields of advertising and media and politics, there have been umpteen examples of those you thought were flawless, turning out to be not only flawed, but frighteningly so. What you need to understand here, is that most women must battle an incredible amount of resistance just to get to a spot which comes relatively easily to most men. Remember this the next time you ask why she didn’t leave the job at the slightest display of harassment; it is her right to continue at this job, and your responsibility to make sure she can. Don’t shrink away from your responsibilities and place the blame on her instead.
In these circumstamces, we must remember to keep an unbiased outlook, and make sure not to jump to conclusions based on half facts or rumours and news from unverified sources. That said, we also have to keep in mind, that the people accused are usually those in seats of power and privilege, this it becomes necessary for us to not take sides, but encourage transparent investigation into the matter.
Victim shaming should be avoided at all costs, and the accuser should be encouraged to narrate her story and demand justice and judiciary help without any sort of intimidation or pressure being created on her. Instead of reminding others ‘innocent until proven guilty’, we must remember the accuser isn’t a liar until proven otherwise as well. As for TVF, basically saying ‘all these accusations are false, baseless and the accuser shall be found and severely punished’ sounds as bad as a dictator saying anyone who disagrees with him shall be put to death. Intimidation isn’t the first sign of the innocent. Neither is staying silent and waiting for such accusations to blow over.
Although subsequent statements from TVF have adopted a convincing tone about the safety of women being of prime importance in their concern, as well as assuring their audience of a thorough and fair investigation into both sides of the story, scepticism remains prevalent in the minds of most people. Eventually, Mr. Kumar has also issued an official statement claiming ‘the accusations are false, and although he does call his co-workers sexy, he doesn’t force himself on them’.
In the end, the audience as well as TVF, need to grow up. Investigate. Set up a lawful, unbiased and transparent committee to look into the matter. And if evidence points towards Mr. Kumar having committed said crimes, bring him to justice regardless of his position and influence. If he’s innocent, then take action against the women.
That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
Nilesh Mondal is an intern with Youth Ki Awaaz for the February-March 2017 batch.