Suspending Predators: Sincere Action Or Damage Control?
While we all want strict and swift actions in cases of sexual harassment allegations, what does suspending predators actually yield? Three high-profile men from two different industries were slapped with suspension from industry bodies yesterday, over allegations of sexual misconduct. While Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) has suspended filmmaker Sajid Khan for one year, the Editors Guild of India has done the same to MJ Akbar till such time that the court case he has filed is concluded. The EGI has also suspended Tarun Tejpal using the same logic and is seeking a response from journalist Gautam Adhikari, regarding the charges levied against him.
- Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) has suspended filmmaker Sajid Khan for one year.
- Editors Guild of India has also suspended MJ Akbar and Tarun Tejpal over allegations of sexual misconduct.
- Guilds and associations across industries need to really think hard about what they tend to achieve by implementing such temporary bans.
Suspension of these men is indeed a welcome action, but what took these bodies so long to figure out that they needed to take action against the said men?
The #MeToo movement outed these men and many more like them nearly two months ago. There weren’t just one but multiple accounts of harassment against Khan and Akbar. Yet it took EGI so much time to contemplate and implement suspension on them. That Tejpal would have continued to be a member of the guild, had #MeToo movement not broken out in India hasn’t escaped our attention either. But is suspension merely enough? Do we see this as a victory in our drive against harassment of women at the workplace? Or a mere act of damage control to protect their standing, by guilds and associations across industries?
As far as the case of Housefull director Khan goes, a one-year suspension is nothing but paltry. For a man with his connections and standing, what does IFTDA intend to attain with a one-year ban? Considering his alleged misdemeanors, this is nothing but a slap on the wrist. Khan will be back in action next year, directing some big budget film starring his A-list chummies, as if nothing ever happened.
Guilds and associations across industries need to really think hard about what they tend to achieve by implementing such temporary bans.
Moreover, should they just stop at handing out suspensions, or contemplate long-term policies which would discourage predatory behaviour altogether? Suspensions send across a stern message only when those implementing it get the timing and duration right. It shouldn’t come across as an afterthought. Nor should it come across as a measure to counter criticism coming the way of industries, for lack of action. Delayed action also comes across as their lack of belief in survivors or as a hesitance in taking strict action.
The only way these industry bodies can now make us believe in their intentions is by committing to the cause of ending sexual harassment. We need proper guidelines in place to both discourage and manage sexual harassment complaints in all industries. We would also like to know how those at the seams of industries like Bollywood, journalism etc plan to break the pyramid of male power and entitlement, to usher in equal rights and status for women. Unless bodies like EGI and IFTDA begin putting the framework for such measures in place, it is hard to take these suspensions seriously.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.