Girl, traumatised, was forced to tender her resignation and leave for New Delhi

Bailancho Saad, a women’s collective, here on Friday strongly condemned the incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assaults that have taken place at the recently concluded Think Fest held here and the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI), and demanded quick and sure punitive action.

Sabina Martins of Bailancho Saad recalled that Bailancho Saad had objected to Tarun Tejpal’s statement at a previous Think Fest event, wherein he stated that when in Goa, one could “sleep with anyone you like.” Mr. Tejpal’s act of sexual assault as a sequel was reprehensible and action had to be taken, she said.

“Action not just against the sexual assault, but also against the message given out to the public that in Goa, one can hold events and abuse women especially by people in power, is a must,” said Ms. Martins.

Similar, the behaviour of IFFI organisers, where a Deputy Director of the IFFI solicited sexual services from women employed for organising the event, was unacceptable, she said.

While the Goa government had registered a complaint against Mr. Tejpal, the Deputy Director of IFFI continued to hold the post without even a written apology, said Ms. Martins.

Bailancho Saad received a complaint from a Jawaharlal Nehru University student who was employed as a Programmer for the IFFI. She was called on the pretext of a daily briefing and later, suggestions were made for sexual favours. The student was advised to file a complaint with the sexual harassment committee.

As there was no information as to where the Complaints Committee was at the venue and who the members were, the complaint was sent to the Director of IFFI, Shankar Mohan, and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on November 17. She also complained that CCTV cameras were used for voyeuristic purposes.

A committee was hurriedly constituted, where the student and the accused Deputy Director, IFFI, were heard by three committee members. The student was not informed who was the NGO representative on the committee. The girl was told that the matter would be looked into but no written apology was taken from the accused. As the girl was traumatised, she tendered her resignation and left for Delhi. While the girl was forced to leave her job, the accused continued with no action taken by the government, Ms. Martins stated.

ABailancho Saad has said that they made enquiries and found that many girls were employed with no service contracts, leaving them vulnerable and insecure and at the mercy of superiors, who took advantage of their vulnerabilities.

“Time and again, Bailancho Saad has been objecting to the sale of alcohol on government premises, but the government has not heeded. In fact, it has roped in casinos besides alcohol companies to sponsor and advertise. The Goa government continues to promote Goa as a sin city, and then makes hollow speeches of taking steps to stop crimes against women,” said Ms. Martins indignantly.

Bailancho Saad demanded that the Goa government stop promotion of vices for tourism, as it creates an unsafe environment for women, said Ms. Martins.

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