Voices of countless women who fight against different forms of violence are suppressed on a daily basis. Sexual harassment at the workplace is one such appalling form of violence. In Unmute, the short film released by Population Foundation of India (PFI), Shreya Kalra, a young professional, narrates her horrifying experience of sexual harassment at the hands of her boss. This short film is the last in a series of six films released by PFI in association with Farhan Akhtar's MARD and well known director Feroz Abbas Khan as part of the Bas Ab Bahut Ho Gaya – Enough is Enough! campaign to end violence against women and girls.
In the film, Shreya recollects the painful incident and details of the prolonged period of harassment, alienation and humiliation that she was subject to after she reported it. The incident was a lewd comment made by her male boss that was posted on social media by another colleague. It didn't end with that. When Shreya tried to report it, she says there was little in terms of support from her organisation. What surprised Shreya the most was that nearly everyone in the office turned against her and in the end, she was forced to quit her job.
As Shreya puts it, “The roots of gender violence exist across classes and different sections of the society. While violence is committed against women and girls, the normalcy associated with it is even worse, as the victim is expected to be fine with the humiliation that she is subjected to. Women are expected to bear with the unacceptable behaviour which ranges from staring to bad touch and from eve-teasing to sexual harassment at work place. My experience at the previous firm hasn’t got me looking at the world in a negative way, rather it has made me strong in a way. I can now work for a society where women can live with equal choice and opportunity”.
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of PFI adds, “As a country we still don’t acknowledge the seriousness of workplace harassment. The fact that victims refrain from reporting such incidents either to secure their jobs or to avoid shaming makes it evident that we have failed to do justice as a society. We need men and women to become allies and change toxic workplace cultures that are disrespectful and discriminatory to women.”.
Feroz Abbas Khan said, “Sexual harassment at the workplace is one of the least addressed forms of violence that women are battling today. If India wants to be counted among the developed nations, we need to give women their right to equal opportunity and the safe spaces for them to grow.”
The film raises a series of questions: How can women be expected to be economically independent if they feel unsafe at their workplaces? How long will society give men the power to commit violence against women and get away with it? These questions are not just for men to answer, but for everyone who thinks violence against women is okay.
The film can be seen here.