Filmmaker Vaishnavi Sundar is on a mission to be heard. She considers her film camera to be an extension of her body, the instrument which helps her document and comment on the social issues she cares most about. One of these issues that is currently demanding all her attention is sexual harassment at the workplace in India. Vaishnavi is in the process of raising funds for But What Was She Wearing? – a documentary feature that attempts to understand what impact the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, has had on the office dynamics in India.
The law lays out a broad definition of ‘sexual harassment’ and, among other things, stipulates the constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at every establishment. The ICC is expected to be impartial, sensitive, and thorough in its fast-moving action in the event of a complaint.
Sadly, the movement set in motion by the erstwhile Vishaka Guidelines and now this law hasn’t picked up the necessary momentum. Complaints of widespread sexism, harassment, and assaults at the workplace in India have been growing, but the statistics still do not reflect the true extent of the problem. Women who have lodged complaints have found themselves walking a long, expensive route to justice that may never come.
In the documentary, Vaishnavi’s focus is to capture the voices of these women who have grappled with harassment and chosen different routes to tackle it, including some times, silence. “It is claustrophobic, sitting in a room and listening to these women recount their experiences,” she says.
Complicating matters is the deep unawareness with respect to what constitutes microaggression and harassment. Is it only when the woman is touched without consent that the line has been crossed? Is pestering a colleague for a date, harassment? Is just the idea of discomfort enough to prove harassment?
The documentary will inspire these questions, and more! Women need to be heard and the complicated power play of an office space needs to be broken down for sexual harassment to be understood and tackled. This feature could become a small step in that direction.
If you wish to contribute to the film’s release, refer to the following links:
The Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4BEwXZvJeY
Written by Shruti Sharada.