A report of the Hema Committee, set up by the Kerala Government to address issues of gender inequality and sexual harassment in the Malayalam film industry, is unlikely to be placed in the State Assembly for a debate.
This was revealed after a meeting of members of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) with Kerala Women’s Commission chairperson P. Sathidevi at the Government Guest House in Kozhikode on Sunday morning.
The committee led by the retired Kerala High Court judge was set up on July 1, 2017, after a WCC delegation met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan against the backdrop of sexual assault on an actor in Kochi. The committee submitted its report to the Chief Minister on December 31, 2019.
“I learnt from the then Minister for Cultural Affairs that the committee had not been set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act. So, the government is not bound to place it in the Assembly,” Ms. Sathidevi said.
However, she said that legislation was necessary to monitor and regulate the functioning of the film industry. Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) mandated by the Supreme Court were not functional there. “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 film making only after it sets up an ICC. We will place these issues before the government,” she said.
It was the responsibility of film production companies to address those issues. “We came to know that some of those companies were not even aware of the existence of ICCs.” Ms. Sathidevi said that members of the WCC had told her that they had been raising many problems that women were facing in the industry for the past few years. However, they expressed their grief that solutions had not been forthcoming.
Ms. Sathidevi said that the government was expected to take follow-up measures based on the recommendations of the Hema committee.
Meanwhile, Didi Damodaran, film-maker, said that they were not aware that the committee report need not be made a public document. “We sincerely hope that the contents of the report be made accessible,” she said. Film-maker Anjali Menon, playback singer Sayanora Philip, and actors Parvathy Thiruvothu and Padmapriya were among those who met Ms. Sathidevi.
The Kerala government had drawn flak for the delay in implementation of the report. Recently, a three-member committee was appointed to examine and formulate an implementation plan. Ajoy Chandran, Chalachitra Academy secretary, a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Culture, and an Under Secretary in the Department of Law are part of the new panel.