I debated long and hard before posting this, and a part of me still thinks I should not have, but because at the end of the day, media incestuousness would mean that almost nobody will pick up the story, and as I mentioned, blogs do have a purpose of informing people about things that they will never get to hear about. This is a serious problem in the Indian media.
I heard a very disturbing story a short while ago about an alledged case of sexual harassment in a media organisation. I've always believed that organisations shouldn't be too uptight - and as the case is under investigation, I'll refrain from further details.
People who I know and respect at a level have decided to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that harassment doesn't occur in their organisations - across media groups in India. Large media groups - and there are several - almost always have no Sexual Harassment Cells, whereas even the smallest Investment Banking firm with what, 15-20 employees would have one. Ironic isn't it, because these same media houses then do stories about on harassment. And the worst part is that they are legally required to have such a cell.
So, what is the story here? The incestuous nature of the media here has buried sexual harassment stories before. I mean two phone calls and a round of scotch at a five-star can bury most media rivalries for the time, and who will give a damn if one junior reporter quits. There are some, and this number is dreadfully small, editors who have a 'zero tolerance' policy, but other than the occasional well-publicised event (and that also because the harassed person would have ranked higher in the editorial schemes of things than the harasser) and some interesting initiatives by newer media companies - old media seems to ignore this problem.
Shocking? Definately. So what do we do about it? Well, the media company in question will not change its policies (given that a senior member of their management is accused of far worse, but people choose to ignore that) until something happens. A precedent, and that usually means legal recourse - though chances are that media companies will try and argue in the courts that they should be exempt from the need to have sexual harassment cells.
So, if you work in the media - I have a couple of questions - Does your organisation have a sexual harassment policy? And being the media sexual harassment works both ways, actually all three ways when you come to think of it.
This blog isn't a 'Name and Shame' blog, I'm just mortified that such a thing can happen and that people choose to ignore it. Its a pity, really. And do me a favour, please spread this post around, maybe then something might just happen, after all people do read blogs.
Technorati Tags : India Media Sexual Harrassment
EDIT : Point being raised after a chat with someone else who has had to deal with such an incident - Never forget the basis of both sides of the story. Secondly, if the complainant has a history of being whiney (and I know, first-hand, how easy it is to make up stories, rather spice them up a bit to make a certain individual seem like a total sleazeball, it is very easy), it doesn't help matters.
What is construed as 'sexual harassment'? The odd-SMS? In fact I agree with some of the points raised by the person here, there is no hard and fast rule to apply in this case - because one aspect being raised is is this dismissal baiting? In fact, the head of HR at a very large organisation (25,000 plus with a large number of women in senior management and famous for it) once told me that their sexual harassment cell had discovered that a quarter of such cases were actually classified as dismissal baiting - 'Zero Tolerance' after a full and through investigation is the only way forward. That said, there is always the 'Out of Context' situation - what do you do here - a random 'You Bitch' thrown out of context can get you fired. Now, that said, everybody has to deal with such a case seriously and nobody wants to be seen as lenient on such matters - and as one person (a lady) told that while the person involved might have a cavaliar attitude on some matters - if push comes to shove things will move. But which way is the question?
That however, doesn't remove the basic premise of this post - Do media organisations need full-fledged sexual harassment cells? Yes, they do. And should each case and complaint be investigated? Yes, they should be. And I also believe that the punishment for 'Casual/False' complaints should be as strict as the punishment for an actual case.
None of the parties involved read this blog, or to be more precise not that I know of.
EDIT : Evidently people 'do read' stuff on the internet and I've been advised to change the tenor of this post. I've done that and removed bits and pieces from here and there (which fair enough are allegations - because then I'll also be guilty like much of the Indian media is of convicting without evidence, and that is something I don't want to do) - but my central contention remains the same, and you can't argue with that!