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Vairamuthu caught in #MeToo storm
India’s #MeToo movement has been trending on social media over the last few days, with many in the media calling out their sexual harassers — past and present — and demanding action for their misdemeanours.
The movement hit home when allegations surfaced on Twitter on Monday over inappropriate behaviour by lyricist Vairamuthu.
Journalist Sandhya Menon shared an anonymous account from a woman who said she had received a chance to work with the lyricist when she was 18.
While at his home, Vairamuthu allegedly made advances and hugged and kissed the woman without her consent. She said she left the spot as soon as she could and was only willing to work with him in a group since then. Later, she was told the whole industry knew the 65-year-old national awardee was a ‘predator’ but people were scared to expose him due to his political connections.
The account was retweeted several times with prominent endorsement from singer Chinmayi, who said, “The industry knows; the men know. #TimesUp”, implying that others were privy to such behaviour by Vairamuthu.
Two comments to her tweet had responders state their acquaintances had faced similar harassment by the lyricist. While Vairamuthu was unavailable for comment, his spokesperson Bhaskaran said, “He is not active on social media and he is unaware of this allegation. In fact, we do not even know who the person is. This issue is similar to that of Sri Reddy, who accused all leading actors, directors and cricketers across the nation.
Just because someone has posted something nasty on social media, it cannot be considered or validated. We will be informing him of this false allegation only today and then he will take a call.”
While lyricist Vairamuthu is one of the first high-profile names from the cinema field to be accused, most allegations and complaints have come from women feeling unsafe in a workspace environment with colleagues or superiors.
Advocate Sudha Ramalingam told DT Next that now it was imperative for corporate offices and other work environments ensure that an ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) is set up with immediate effect.
“If it hasn’t been constituted yet, the management must ensure that they do, and more importantly – make everyone in the office aware of its existence, with a poster on the notice board. They should also have an external presence as part of the committee, preferably someone from a women’s rights NGO.”
She added, “Anyone at the receiving end of such a complaint should follow the due procedure administered by the ICC. They can also file a defamation suit in case they feel they have been falsely accused.”
- Ensure everyone in the office is sensitised on sexual harassment issues; hold awareness campaigns
- Mandatory follow-up on complaints to be recorded on file and followed up with correct enquiry procedures
- Treat all co-workers with equal dignity and respect, regardless of gender or position
- Don’t look at co-workers in an inappropriate manner which makes them uncomfortable to share the workspace
- Don’t touch or address them with any improper intention or use abusive terms
- Don’t trivialise or ignore any complaint of such nature