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Tamil film lyricist Vairamuthu has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women – yet, TV channels continue to give him a platform.
In India, (as in most parts of the world, I assume), it is not uncommon for those who are accused of sexual offenses to eloquently cite the reasons for sexual crimes. No prizes for guessing that the list does not include themselves.
In a recent interview with the Polimer News channel, Tamil film lyricist Vairamuthu spoke on the need to ban alcohol in Tamil Nadu, citing alcohol as a reason for sexual offenses. He is not the first one to call for a prohibition of alcohol in the state. The state government has been widely criticised for a long time on the grounds that it makes 30000 odd crores by selling alcohol.
However, what is important to note about Vairamuthu’s statement is that he links alcohol to sexual assaults and believes that an alcohol ban will increase safety for women.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, the irony in this statement would be evident because Vairamuthu has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.
Singer Chinmayi Sripada who had accused Vairamuthu of sexual harassment, called Polimer TV out for asking a man accused of sexual assault for his opinions about sexual assault. She called it an absolute lack of moral fibre. After this, Polimer news is said to have called her mother – not to apologize or understand but to harass them about the tweet. The news channel also refused to take this up on a social media platform.
While Vairamuthu’s sanctimonious statement in isolation ideally need not be given much attention – there are two things to note here.
Whenever those in power and those accused of sexual crimes give their opinion, they seem to believe that sexual crimes belong to another type/ another class of people. Vairamuthu’s statement is a blatant passing of blame to “another class” of people, in this vein.
These kinds of discussions happen everywhere across the country, even in business schools where they forget that sexual assaults are not a class problem, and even CEOs and people in power are often the ones accused of grave crimes.
Why is it that people still want to find solutions to curb sexual assaults by making it a class problem? Why is it isolated to this when there are abusers in our classrooms, workplaces, and families?
The second thing to note here is that some media houses seem to have no shame or qualms in taking a side and always using the victims to create sensational news. Recently, there was unofficial confirmation that Vairamuthu was ousted from Mani Ratnam’s project, Ponniyin Selvan. Sometimes, there is indeed a small win for those who call out their offenders. However, their everyday reality is a string of tweets that say, “Where is the proof?”
It is not uncommon to see the victims get shamed and blamed on social media platforms. Chinmayi Sripada always faces backlashes for speaking up, that can only be described as gruesome personal attacks.
However, while victims get blamed and questioned and even threatened, the accused has no dearth for opportunities or press conferences where he can share his views about sexual offenses while choosing to stay silent about the complaints against him. One glance at Twitter, and we can see that choosing to come out about your offender almost becomes a full-time job for the woman involved – fighting legal battles, gathering evidence, defending your statements, and answering the umpteen questions that people seem to have for the victim.
In all of this, there is only one thought I linger with even as I finish writing about this issue, a whole lot unsettled – I wonder who taught these men and women to be so entitled that they believe that once a woman comes out and names her offender, it is her full-time job to make sure he is taken to task?
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Nandhitha Hariharan is a writer with a love for anything that is pretty or covered
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