India has issued a rare diktat to its powerful movie moguls, reminding Bollywood to keep women safe from the sort of sex abuse allegations poisoning the US film industry. India’s minister for women and child welfare Maneka Gandhi wrote to major production houses on Wednesday, asking them to comply with the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, which stipulates a series of processes to protect women at work. “Bollywood filmmakers are ethically and legally accountable for the safety of not only their direct employees but of all outsourced and temporary staff as well,” read a tweet posted by Gandhi’s ministry, quoting from her letter.
Indian firms with 10 or more employees must set up committees to look into complaints of sexual harassment and ensure that female staff know their workplace rights. Despite such laws, activists say very few of cases of sexual harassment are reported to the police in an industry, like Hollywood, that is run by men and operates by its own rules.
The vast majority of Bollywood’s biggest producers and film-makers come from prominent film families who until recently controlled most of the high-profile and lucrative industry. Tales of sexual harassment have begun to surface in Mumbai, home to the world’s biggest film industry, following a wave of similar accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. More than 50 women have claimed that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them over the past three decades.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. But Bollywood has all the same elements that make it easy for men to exploit wannabe stars eager for fame and fortune. Thousands of young boys and girls flock to the Bollywood capital Mumbai every year seeking film parts and are often exploited by agents who promise roles in exchange for favors. While some big Bollywood names have been charged with rape and harassment, they have rarely lost their peers’ support.-Reuters