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What does the Tehelka sexual harassment case means to us in the broader scheme of things?
One could not open a newspaper or turn on a news media channel for the past week, without being constantly bombarded by the Tehelka – Tarun Tejpal case of sexual harassment. The facts of the case now stand true to the name of the publication – Tehelka, which means sensational. Perhaps no news story spawned from the Tehelka news desk has created such headlines as the antics of one of its founders, while away from it.
So, let us review the impact of what has been happening:
A head of a publication, that had positioned itself as the bastion of change has been caught on the wrong foot. Indeed, the foot that has an Achilles’ heel. The ‘sting’ operation expert has been stung (clichéd, but irresistible).
The person who was victimised has come courageously forward to accuse him, thereby, seeking justice for herself.
As is usual, attempts were made to cast aspersions on her and her version of events.
The perpetrator has through his actions, emails and contradictory statements implicated himself.
If we can for a moment separate the person from the publication, we need to admit that Tehelka was doing good, some would say great, work in exposing corrupt practices, criminal activities of the establishment and highlighting rampant injustices in our system. With this ignominious episode and its aftermath spelling the doom and subsequent closure of this publication, we can no more expect any more Tehelka-style exposes.
In his column in Kafila, journalist Rahul Roy exposes the story behind some exposes which were suppressed and tells us just how corrupt Tehelka itself had become, and how partisan and self-serving was the head of the publication to his own selfish interests.
If a journalist – an educated, informed person can be subject to sexual harassment, imagine this to be the tip of a rather murky iceberg, exposed to the world. We shudder to think what must be the state of the female labour force in the corporate, health, education, technology and worse, the unorganised and domestic labour force.
The publicity of this incident and awareness of their rights has prompted others to now follow suit. And better yet, it has lent credibility to the woman’s version of similar incidents, which until now, was always scoffed at or worse, discredited.
As I write this, eleven women working in K.E.M.Hospital have complained about a male co-worker’s harassment. Hopefully, others will follow suit.
Shoma Chaudhary, a journalist whose work I have long admired comes through in a less than flattering light, for her reluctance/delay in setting up the enquiry cell as was required by her, under the Vishaka guidelines.
This will certainly (or hopefully) prod other similarly reluctant heads of institutions, to speed up the setting up enquiry cells/committees.
The forwarded email with the salacious details of the ‘episode’ ( as well as the identity of the victim) and the gobbling up of its contents points to a definite dearth of moral code of ethics in the general Indian public.
Er…None that I can see, I am afraid!
Unless, some hacker of hackers figures out who is responsible and punishment is meted out, at least, to the source of the leak.
The treatment of the erstwhile Tehelka chief like a Buzkashi Carcass (Rahul Roy’s apt phrase, I am afraid) and the moral posturing of most men who are commenting about his behaviour (including the frenzied media interviewers) would have us believe that Mr. Tejpal was the lone wolf in India, who was preying on young women.
If we gave all their cupboards a solid shove, I wonder what rattles we would hear!
The Omerta (Roy’s words, again) of the old boys’ network has been pried open – just a teeny-tiny bit, mind you. The Think Fest excesses, villas in Goa, payment of staff members and so on, are now in the news.
So, before this window closes again and they circle the wagons and close up once more (already happening), I wonder, what else will tumble out.
The judiciary and legislature, where these and similar complaints will ultimately end up, either a supplicant for justice or a Law needing debate, already have their version of Tehelka, one involving a Supreme Court Judge and the other a Prime Ministerial hopeful.
Speaks volumes for the hope, which is being held out for women in this situation.
I am totally stumped on this one. Any suggestions?
I am sure, all the working women who have to fight, struggle for their due and outperform their male counterparts every single day, whilst simultaneously being watchful about the roving hands and eyes, will be earnestly watching the progress of this case.
Hope that with time, the good news outnumbers the bad, though.
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
As long as teachers are competent in their job, and adhere to the workplace code of conduct, how does it matter what they do in their personal lives?
A 30 year old Associate Professor at a well-known University, according to an FIR filed by her, was forced to resign because the father of one of her students complained that he found his son looking at photographs of her, which according to him were “objectionable” and “bordering on nudity”.
There are two aspects to this case, which are equally disturbing, and which together make me question where we are heading as a society.
When the father of an 18 year old finds his son looking at photographs of a lady in a swimsuit, he can do many things. What this parent allegedly did was to dash off a letter to the University which states: