Journalists protest against sexual harassment in the media, in New Delhi yesterday. India’s #MeToo movement has named Bollywood figures and prominent journalists, among others. Image Credit: AFP

Mumbai, New Delhi: Two eminent Mumbai-based lawyers, Mrunalini Deshmukh and Vaibhav Krishnan, have volunteered to provide legal aid to victims of sexual harassment and assault, without charging any fee.

Several commentators have said that the #MeToo movement would fizzle out unless legal recourse is taken by or on behalf of women who have spoken up. Judicial redress may now be available for many of these women.

Meanwhile, the Indian Film & amp; Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) has issued notices to all the directors who have been named by women for sexual harassment or assault.

Ashoke Pandit, president of IFTDA said notices had been sent to the accused filmmakers, including Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl, seeking their response withi ten days. If they do not respond, their names would be placed on the ‘non-cooperation list, following which the women could approach the two lawyers who have come forward to provide legal help, he added.

IFTDA could not send a notice to Nana Patekar since he was an actor and not a director, Pandit said.

He also said: “Unfortunately our organisation cannot punish the guilty legally. We can only ask for a boycott of the accused. In this context we’re very happy that Sajid Khan has been sent on leave from his directorial job in House Full 4. By doing this, Akshay Kumar and (producer) Sajid Nadiadwala have set the right tone for the MeToo movement in India.”

Two of the victims at the receiving end of Sajid Khan’s alleged actions — Rachel White and Karishma Upadhyyay — have narrated their stories to the IFTDA.

Pandit said that “it shook us to hear them talk about their experiences. No woman in any workplace should be subjected to this behaviour. There are serial predators in the film industry whom we’ve identified. I want them to know their time is up. We have two of the finest lawyers in the country to make sure they pay for their perversity.”

Meanwhile, as the #MeToo movement intensifies in the country, a group of journalists Saturday held a protest here expressing solidarity with their women colleagues who have come out and demanded proper implementation of the prevention of sexual harassment act to ensure dignity at workplace.

The protesting journalists also sought immediate action against those facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

They also demanded the removal of Union Minister M J Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment by a number of women journalists, when he was an editor of several publications, a few years ago.

The scribes also held placards bearing messages that sexual harassment at workplace was not acceptable and said “accountability begins from the top” with protesting journalists raising slogans seeking removal of Akbar.

The group of journalists also passed a joint resolution seeking justice for the victims.

“Sexual harassment at workplace is non-negotiable. We salute those women who have come out and shared their trauma. It is not easy to speak out and takes a lot of courage to speak up about such incidents,” senior journalist and IWPC president T K Rajalakshmi said.

Besides members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), journalists from some print and electronic media assembled in front of the Free School Church on Parliament Street and raised slogans, demanding proper implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act.

“We, the assembled journalists today express our complete solidarity with all those ho have come out and spoken courageously against the harassment they have faced by colleagues and superiors,” the resolution said.

The IWPC president said such incidents need to be checked also through proper monitoring of the internal complaints committee (ICC).

“Such cases also show that ICCs are either not there or not effective in media organisations,” she said.

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi Friday had strongly backed women who narrated their experiences of sexual misconduct and more as the #MeToo floodgates opened wider with high-profile directors Sajid Khan, Subhash Ghai and Luv Ranjan the latest to be ‘outed’.