Kerala Women’s Commission Chairperson Sathidevi indicated on Sunday that the Hema committee report is not bound to be brought up before the state assembly for debate.
Her statement followed a meeting with members of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), including actors Parvathy Thiruvothu, Padmapriya, filmmakers Anjali Menon, Didi Damodaran, and playback singer Sayanora, at the government guest house in Kozhikode on Sunday.
Addressing the media after the meeting, the women’s commission chairperson said, “I learnt from the then Minister for Cultural Affairs that the [Hema] committee had not been set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act. So, the government is not bound to place it in the Assembly.”
Headed by retired judge Hema, the committee was formed on July 1, 2017 by Kerala’s Department of Cultural Affairs in the aftermath of the Malayalam female actor abduction and sexual assault incident. Its aim was to study gender disparity, sexual harassment, and other such issues faced by women in the Malayalam film industry. Many women submitted testimonies before the commission, describing their traumatic experiences. A report was subsequently submitted to the government on December 31, 2019 and the WCC has been fighting to get this report made public since.
Justice Hema recently told The News Minute that the report has to remain confidential citing the need to “protect the interest of all concerned.” She added that this was not an attempt to protect the perpetrators and further said that the women who spoke to the committee were free to share their experiences of harassment in public, if they wanted to do so.
Sathidevi, meanwhile, brought up a different angle: that the committee and the government are not obligated to make the report public.
She said, however, that the government was expected to take follow-up measures based on the recommendations of the committee and stressed the need for legislation to monitor and regulate the functioning of the film industry. “Even years after the passage of the Equal Remuneration Act, disparity in wages is a reality in the industry. The commission is of the view that a production house should be given registration for filmmaking only after it sets up an ICC (Internal Complaints Committee, which is mandated by the Supreme Court). We will place these issues before the government,” she said.
The Kerala government recently constituted a three-member committee to implement the recommendations of the Hema report. The panel consists of Chalachitra Academy Secretary Ajoy Chandran, a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Culture, and an Under Secretary of the Department of Law.
Meanwhile, members of the WCC addressed the media after the meeting with Sathidevi and expressed their disappointment on being told the contents of the Hema committee report would not be made public. Filmmaker Didi Damodaran noted that they still hoped this would happen and added that they would even go so far as to knock on the doors of concerned officials to ensure it.
Speaking about the ongoing female actor assault case, filmmaker Anjali Menon reiterated that survivors should get justice, with necessary steps taken to provide a fair trial. “In this industry, there are many unfair practices and this case is an example. We are working to ensure that this kind of incident does not happen again. We need systemic change and that’s our focus. We are hopeful that there will be change,” she said.