Pinarayi Govt has blocked #MeToo movement in Malayalam film industry: Asha Jomis


Athira M R

"After all this ordeal, the government chose not to publish the report and thereby openly declared to stand by the abusers, betraying women in cinema who put their trust in this government."

The detailed report on the issues faced by women in Malayalam Film Industry was submitted to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on December 31, 2019

The Hema commission report turns two years old on December 31, 2021. But it has not been tabled in the Assembly or seen the light of the day ever since it was submitted back in 2019. The report was meant to be an eye-opener into the harassment and discrimination faced by women artists in the Malayalam film industry. The Kerala state government has been keeping the report undisclosed due to reasons best known to it. Mathrubhumi.com reached out to a few stakeholders who shared their reflections on this topic.

Asha Jomis is the Policy Head at Governance Innovation Labs. Asha has filed RTIs for publishing the Hema Commission report through her lawyers and has actively campaigned for taking action on the Hema Commission report.

How this government handled the Hema commission report is a classic failure of governance. As with most of the Gender empowerment schemes which are reduced to cheap PR stunts, the reluctance of this government to publish the Hema commission report takes it to a new low.

By convincing women in cinema to trust the government, the government tactfully contained an otherwise impending rise of a #MeToo movement in the Malayalam film industry.

Then, it got women who suffered a gross violation of rights at their workplace to share their experiences albeit at risk of loss of future work opportunities. After all this ordeal, the government chose not to publish the report and thereby openly declared to stand by the abusers, betraying women in cinema who put their trust in this government.

Asha Jomis
Asha Jomis | Photo: Facebook

To date, the government has failed to give any reasonable justification for inaction on the report, which exposes the unholy nexus between the political power brokers and the abusers in the film industry. While there are many injustices against women in society, this one stands out as the most shameful state-sponsored abuse against women because the government's take on the report has given confidence to the abusers to continue their abuse while the women suffer in silence.

But sooner than later, there will be a strong uprising from women in cinema and all it will take is another crime coming to light and I sincerely hope women in cinema will not make the same mistake of trusting such a corrupt government again.

Advocate Harish Vasudevan, lawyer at High Court. He has been actively involved in social issues for the past 16 years.

The government is functioning according to its whims and fancy. There is fairness in administrative decision making. The Chief Minister and team believe that fairness and transparency in decision making are at their mercy. It is actually not. It's a fundamental right of every citizen. The government is duty-bound to adopt the principles of fairness in this.

Not only this, the government has adopted an unfair administrative mechanism in almost all matters. Our general public is not aware of their rights. They also think that ministers are rulers like kings and whatever they are doing fairly is our luck. So, the government is taking it as an excuse to take unfair decisions in an arbitrary manner.

Advocate Harish Vasudevan
Advocate Harish Vasudevan | Photo: Facebook

Justice Hema commission reveals some cognizable offences in which FIR is mandatory. How can the government be silent on such facts? The action taken report is vague and unclear. What action has been taken till date?

The government is with the abuser as evident from their culpable silence. Otherwise, they have to prove it by taking action.

Testimonial by an actor working in the Malayalam industry

"While working on a film, I was staying at the guesthouse accommodation and there would be incessant knockings on my door in the middle of the night. Every night. I never dared to open the door fearing what would happen. I have stayed awake through the night, petrified of what would happen and then go back to work every morning. That fear is not something I had expected when I chose to work in the film industry. When I tried to complain, it was met with dismissive responses. There was no system where I could take this up. It was my first film, and I didn’t know whom to tell. I never told my family because they would ask me to immediately stop this work that I love and return home.

This has happened at different places and I have even called hotel receptions to complain. Sometimes they would come to check outside my door and as a result, the knocking would stop that night. But not always.

At JHC, I realised this is a very common experience for women and we talked about it. That was the first time I spoke about it."

Read More: Who is afraid of Hema commission report?

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