Sun TV Sexual Harassment Case- Response from Women Journalists #Vaw


To,

The Board of Directors,

Sun TV Network Limited Corporate Office

Murasoli Maran Towers
73, MRC Nagar Main Road,  MRC Nagar,
Chennai – 600 028

30.03.2013

*Sub: Response to Mr J.Ravindran re. Sexual Harassment Case at Sun TV*

Dear Board of Directors,

This is in response to the e-mail dated 28.03.2013 sent to us by Mr. J.
Ravindran, counsel for Sun TV, in which he claims that the allegations
against the company in our press statement, *Eclipsing Women’s Rights:
Sexual Harassment at Sun TV –  NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of
Woman Journalist* dated 28.30.13, are “totally false and baseless”.

We would like to bring to your notice the following:

1.      The “Code of Conduct” of the Company demands “Strict compliance
with applicable laws, rules and regulations. The Board and the senior
management are expected to comply with all applicable laws, rules and
regulations in letter and spirit.” However, Sun TV Ltd. appears to have
blatantly flouted the orders of the highest court of the land, namely
the “Vishaka
Guidelines  against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Guidelines and norms
laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vishaka and Ors Vs. State of
Rajasthan and Others (JT 1997 (7) SC 384) (hereinafter the ‘Vishaka
Guidelines’).

2.      According to the Vishaka Guidelines, which is the prevailing law of
the land, “Sexual Harassment” is defined as the following:

“ Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour
(whether directly or by implication) as: a) Physical contact and advances;
b) A demand or request for sexual favours; c) Sexually coloured remarks; d)
Showing pornography; e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal
conduct of sexual nature.

Where any of these acts is committed in circumstances where-under the
victim of such conduct has a reasonable apprehension that in relation to
the victim’s employment or work whether she is drawing salary, or
honorarium or voluntary, whether in government, public or private
enterprise, such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and
safety problem. It is discriminatory, for instance, when the woman has
reasonable grounds to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in
connection with her employment or work, including recruiting or promotion,
or when it creates a hostile work environment. Adverse consequences might
be visited if the victim does not consent to the conduct in question or
raises any objection thereto.”

3.      The Vishaka Guidelines further state: “It shall be the duty of the
employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions
to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to
provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of
acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.”

There is no evidence that this requirement has been complied with at the
Sun TV. Neither were preventive steps taken to ensure a conducive
workplace, nor were procedures in place for the resolution and settlement
of acts of sexual harassment at the workplace. This is illegal and in
contempt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

4.      The Vishaka Guidelines require that “an appropriate complaint
mechanism should be created in the employer’s organisation for redress of
the complaint made by the victim. Such complaint mechanism should ensure
time bound treatment of complaints.”

According to our information, such a complaints mechanism is not in place
at Sun TV Network.

5.      According to the Vishaka Guidelines, “The said complaints mechanism
should provide, where necessary, a Complaints Committee, a special
counsellor or other  support service, including the maintenance of
confidentiality. It must be noted that the Complaints Committee should be
headed by a woman and not less than half of its member should be women.
Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from
senior levels, such Complaints Committee should involve a third party,
either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual
harassment.”

6.      The Hon’ble Supreme Court is fully cognisant of the vulnerable
position of complainants and witnesses in complaints of sexual harassment
filed against superiors, and therefore lays down that, “In particular, it
should ensure that victims or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated
against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.”

We find that this principle has not been complied with in the present case
involving Ms Akila, the complainant. Far from a fair redressal of her
complaint, she has been further victimised by placing her under suspension
on grounds of complaints from other women employees, which strains
credulity in a workplace which is reportedly hostile to women employees due
to the actions of senior management.

7.      In compliance with the law of the land, we demand that an
Independent Inquiry be constituted. Since there was no existing Complaints
Committee, the Independent Inquiry Committee must be set up on the
guidelines under Vishakha mentioned in Point 5 above.

8.      Ms. Akila should be reinstated and allowed to perform her duties in
a conducive work environment. Mr V. Raja and Mr Vetrivendan should remain
under suspension pending the Independent Inquiry to ensure that the Inquiry
is genuinely unbiased and conducted without undue pressure.

We believe that these steps, while compliant with the prevailing law,
might also contribute to the adherence of the Sun TV Code of Conduct to
“conduct the business of the Company in accordance with applicable laws,
rules, regulations, highest standards of business ethics and to detect and
prevent unethical conduct of business.”

Sincerely yours,

The Working Council,

On Behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India

1.      Ammu Joseph, Bangalore

2.      Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai

3.      Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore

4.      Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata

5.      Sandhya Taksale, Pune

6.      Sameera Khan, Mumbai

7.      Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

8.      Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata

9.      Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad

10.  K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram

11.  Sonal Kellogg, Delhi

12.  Parul Sharma, Delhi

13.  Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore

14.  Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore

15.  Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal

16.  Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eclipsing Women’s Rights: Sexual Harassment at Sun TV # Vaw


PRESS STATEMENT: 28 March 2013

NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of Woman Journalist

The Network of Women in Media, India, an independent forum of media
professionals across the country condemns the continued victimisation of a
complainant of sexual harassment, and demands her immediate reinstatement.
We also demand an independent inquiry into the case and the setting up -as
required by law- of formal mechanisms to redress sexual harassment at the
Chennai-based Sun TV.

The Background
S. Akila joined Sun TV Chennai in December 2011 as a news anchor/news
producer. Ever since she joined, V. Raja, the Chief Editor and Vetrivendhan,
the Reporters’ Co-ordinator indicated that the confirmation of her job and
subsequent pay rise depended on the ‘compromises’ she was willing to make.
This was apparently not the first time they had made such demands, but due
to the hostile and intimidating atmosphere at the office, few women had been
able to resist. As a result of her refusal to concede to their demands of
sexual favours in return for job security and pay hikes, her confirmation
remained pending even after completing the six-month probationary period.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, Ms Akila’s Diwali bonus was withheld. When she
raised the issue with Mr Raja, he asked her to get in touch with him over
the phone after reaching home. Upon phoning him, he told her that she had
been confirmed and that she should “take care of him” for the favour. Ms
Akila terminated the call, but managed to record the conversation.

When Mr Raja realised that she was not coming around, he kept harassing her
in different ways, including verbally abusing her in front of her
colleagues. On January 21st, he summoned her to his cabin and threatened her
with dire consequences if she went public with a complaint of harassment.
Soon thereafter, in contravention of the norm of assigning shifts, he put
her on morning shifts for several weeks, which required her to leave her
residence at 3.30 am in order to be at office at 5 am, since the office did
not arrange for morning pick-up. Questioning the unusual assigning of a
continuous morning shift, she confronted Mr Raja on February 26th. He
informed her that she was continuously on the gruelling morning shift
because she was not “adjusting” to him. After serving the morning shift for
another few weeks while struggling with domestic responsibilities, things
became unbearable. Ms Akila then approached the police on March 19th and
filed a complaint of sexual harassment. On the same day, Mr Raja was
arrested under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of
Women Act. Two days later, Mr Vetrivendhan was also arrested on the same
charges.

Continued Harassment
However, the arrest of the harassers was only a continuation of the
nightmare. Soon after Mr. Raja’s arrest, Ms Akila received an anonymous
phone call by someone threatening to kill her. In a move to isolate her at
the workplace, her friend Mr Kannan who was aware of the harassment and was
supportive of her, was suspended on grounds of a complaint filed by
colleagues who refused to work with him or Ms Akila. When Ms Akila reported
to the office on March 25th, she was not assigned any work. As per schedule,
she was to anchor the 12.00 noon news bulletin, but she was not allowed to
go on air. In a complete travesty of justice, on March 26th, Mr Raja who was
by then out on bail, joined work, and the next day, Ms Akila was handed a
suspension order. Thus, a woman who resisted sexual harassment and stood up
to demands for sexual favours has been further victimised.

It must be noted that there is no redressal mechanism at Sun TV for
complaints of sexual harassment. This is in contempt of the Guidelines
issued in 1997 by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Vishakha case, which
places an obligation on every establishment in the country to ensure the
rights of women workers by creating a conducive workplace free from sexual
harassment. These principles of gender equity and labour rights are also
enshrined in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 which was passed by both houses of
Parliament and is only awaiting the President’s assent.

Our demands:
1) Immediate reinstatement of S. Akila
2) Payment of damages for mental trauma
3) Immediate suspension of V. Raja pending an independent inquiry as
well as the police investigation into the case
4) Independent inquiry into the case, by a team that includes
independent, third-party lawyers, journalists and women’s rights activists
5) As a longer-term measure, setting up of an Internal Complaints
Committee as per the Vishaka Guidelines.
6) Establishment of Complaints Committees in all media houses as per
the Vishakha Guidelines and the new law once it comes into force.
Signed:
The Network of Women in Media, Working Council

1. Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
2. Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
3. Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
4. Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
5. Sandhya Taksale, Pune
6. Sameera Khan, Mumbai
7. Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
8. Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad
9. K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram
10. Sonal Kellogg, Delhi
11. Parul Sharma, Delhi
12. Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore
13. Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore
14. Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal
15. Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata
16. Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

 

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