Hema Commission moots equal pay, better security for women in cinema

Justice Hema hands over the report to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2019. File

Thiruvananthapuram: Justice Hema Commission constituted in the wake of the February 2017 abduction and rape of a leading actor has recommended making movie producers responsible for providing safe accommodation and transport to women in the film industry.

A meeting convened by Minister for Culture Saji Cherian discussed the commission's major recommendations as part of formulating laws to ensure the safety of women in Mollywood -- as the Malayalam film industry is known. The minister reiterated in the talks that the report will not be publicised.

The representatives of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) called the discussion fruitful, while members of the Women in Cinema Collective termed the talks “disappointing.” Senior film editor Beena Paul said the recommendations were vague. The WCC also demanded that further talks be conducted in the presence of Justice Hema.

The three-member Commission was formed with Justice (retd) K Hema as the chairperson, and former bureaucrat K B Valsalakumari and veteran actor Sharada as its members to address issues of sexual harassment and gender inequality in the film industry. The panel submitted its report to the government on December 31, 2019.

The government has been refusing to make public the recommendations citing its 'sensitive' nature despite demands from several quarters to make it available in the public domain. The latest demand to make it public came from the National Commission for Women on Monday.

The commission has recommended that cinema locations and other related areas are free of drugs and alcohol. Drivers with criminal antecedents should be banned from shooting locations, the report said.
It also called for equal pay for both male and female artists and others involved in movie making, and to make written contracts mandatory in the industry. It also called for basic facilities for women at the workplace.

Recommending an end to auditions on social media, the commission said only the producer, registered with the organisation concerned, should have the authority to organise auditions.

Steps should be initiated to prevent lewd and indecent behaviour towards women, the report recommended. Taking note of women in cinema being lampooned by fan clubs on social media, the commission urged immediate steps to ensure that women would not be insulted in any manner.

Banning anyone from working in the industry for any reason should be stopped. Assistant producers should get minimum wages, and a single-window mechanism should be established to provide loans for making movies.

The Hema Commission also recommended the setting up of an exclusive judicial tribunal to settle disputes, besides forming a strong grievance redressal forum.

An award should be constituted for the best woman producer. The report recommended reservations for women students in film institutes. More opportunities should be opened up for women technicians.
Kerala State Women's Commission Chairperson P Sathidevi, Padmapriya and Beena Paul from the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), Edavela Babu, Siddique and Maniyan Pillai Raju, who represented the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), were among those attending the meeting convened by minister Cherian.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, the minister said a panel comprising Sathidevi, Kerala State Film Development Corporation Chairman Shaji N Karun, Kerala Chalachitra Academy Chairman Ranjith, filmmaker-actor Madhupal and the law secretary has been constituted to hold talks to organisations concerned to know their views.

The present draft report would be finalised and vetted by the law department and the cabinet before passing an Act, Cherian said. Atrocities against women have been on the rise even though the country has strong laws to protect women, and hence the government has been mulling bringing in a new Act and a foolproof system in the film industry, the minister said.

Cherian added that the Hema Commission itself had advised against publishing its recommendations. A law should be made to protect women. Publishing the report would not address the issues of the women, the minister said.

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