The news of the sexual assault case filed against Bollywood actor Jeetendra by his cousin may just be the beginning of Bollywood’s #MeToo campaign. As per the complaint, the victim (who waited for the demise of her parents who, she believed, would have been distraught to know about the incident) was then 18 and Jeetendra 28 years old when the sexual harassment took place.
This news sure is scandalous, but not new. Bollywood actresses have been coping with sexual harassment for a very long time. And not only Bollywood, Hollywood actresses have been victims of many such cases too. The issue assumed center stage a few months ago after Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused by nearly three-dozen women (including top actresses like Léa Seydoux, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne and Gwyneth Paltrow) of inappropriate conduct. The #MeToo campaign took the world by storm and refuses to die down.
In India, such cases are generally pushed under the carpet. However, this trend seems to be changing for good. Recently, a number of actresses have shown the courage to speak out against sexual exploitation. Even Bollywood bigwigs like Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan did not shy away from admitting the existence of casting couches and demand of sexual favors in return of movie roles, are a reality.
Richa Chadha made an explosive comment under #MeToo and said that if security was promised, she was ready to “name and shame” the Harvey Weinsteins’ of Bollywood: “If you give me pension for life, take care of my safety, my family, ensure I’ll continue to get work in films and TV or whatever I want to do, my career will grow unabated as it is right now after I name and shame somebody, sure I will. Not just me, million others will do that. But who will do it? We don’t have royalties here for actors, in absence of proper legislation, who will take a risk?”
The whole issue makes one wonder what the situation of economically and socially vulnerable working women must be like if some of the most privileged women have such grim stories to tell. It is undeniable that it has become more important than ever before for women to shed inhibitions and speak out. The situation is not going to change till women keep mum on such vital issues. It is necessary to expose people who are taking undue advantage of their powerful positions.
But beware, sooner or later the women will speak and that will be the downfall of the predators who are abusing their social and political advantage.