Members of the Women in Cinema Collective have expressed their disapproval of the Hema committee report, calling its recommendations disappointing and lacking in clarity.
Two years and four months after the report was submitted, the Kerala government held the first meeting with stakeholders, on Wednesday, to discuss the committee’s recommendations. The meeting was chaired by Saji Cherian, Kerala’s Minister for Culture.
Post the meeting, addressing the media, actor Padmapriya, a member of WCC, said, “It is disappointing to see these recommendations. They are loosely defined. Anyone who reads this can understand that there will be many questions. I don’t know if the State has taken enough time and consideration to put this together. Who is doing this and how are they doing this?”
She further noted that just as the government had published the Adoor committee report, they have to systematically publish the Hema committee report as well.
Filmmaker Asha Joseph said, “There is an issue of clarity here. Having invested so much time and money to produce this report, how can we understand the recommendations without knowledge of the findings?”
Film editor Bina Paul added that while there are recommendations for toilets and equal pay, there is no clarity on the same. “What is the basis for this? To whom should equal pay be given? How can we implement it without knowing for which sector? How can we give feedback?”
WCC members said that they had discussed with other stakeholders about how the report can be made public and all were in agreement. “The minister is saying there are confidential parts in the report. But there are ways of maintaining the confidentiality and still making the report public,” they added.
On July 1, 2017, the Kerala government established the Justice Hema Committee to study the issues of gender disparity, sexual harassment, and other issues faced by women in the Malayalam film industry and propose recommendations. The commission headed by retired judge Hema was formed in the aftermath of the 2017 female actor abduction and sexual assault case. Many women testified before the commission, and a report was submitted to the government on December 31, 2019. Since then, the members of WCC have been constantly pushing for the report to be published.
Meanwhile, Siddique, Treasurer of AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Artists), said that the organisation welcomed 90% of the suggestions and their reason for not accepting the remaining 10% was due to the practical difficulties in implementing them.
“It was a good discussion and we felt that the Hema committee findings were good. AMMA doesn’t have any objection to the report being published,” he added.
Minister Saji Cherian, however, reiterated that Justice Hema herself has asked that the report not be published. He further stated that there is a need for a law to ensure protection for women working in the industry. “The government has acknowledged the contents of the report, and a law will be formulated soon,” he added.
A panel is to be formed, comprising P Satheedevi (Chairperson of Kerala Women’s Commission), Ranjith (Chairperson of Kerala Chalachitra Academy), Shaji N Karun (Chairperson of Kerala State Film Development Corporation), Madhupal (Chairperson of Kerala Cultural Activists Welfare Board), and V Hari Nair (Law Secretary), to further discuss the matter with the concerned organisations.