At a great phase of life. A steady source of income. Closer to cinema than ever. In a strange land where I know no one and no one knows me. Very little Malayalam to be heard on streets. An anonymous life to everyone around me. This is when a few of us decided that it was time for something very new and important. We formed an alliance.
WASH: Women Against Sexual Harassment
Who we are
We are a group of women. Our professions and lives are different. We are united by one cause. A long drawn battle against sexual harassment. We were fed up and in the midst of a tiring twist of developments in our respective places of education/work when we united. And we are:
Ekabali Ghosh: Writer, Content Manager @ WASH
Student, Jadavpur University [JU], Kolkata
Made complaint of sexual harassment against a fellow student in the University. Molested by a professor’s son. This factor later turned out to be a source of power for the accused. ‘The accused has been asked not to come to classes. But that’s all that has been done. The University authorities have always wanted the case to go to cyber crimes, JU has a notorious record for not punishing sex offenders. We feel that they are delaying the case so that the third year of the UG course ends and he can safely pass out’, in her words.
Fighting for justice since September 2016
Sreecheta Das: Writer, Filmmaker
Complained against two professors of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute [SRFTI] on charges of sexual harassment. Victimised, ostracized and threatened with rape ever since. She believes in fighting matters legally as well as through her work.
Fighting for justice since December 2015
Layashree Joshi: Cinematographer, Filmmaker @ WASH
Complained against one professor and two senior students against sexual harassment in SRFTI. For Layashree WASH means ‘means to fight for that little respect that rightfully belongs to you’.
Fighting for justice since October 2015
kunjila mascillamani: Writer, Filmmaker @ WASH
Complained against two professors on charges of sexual harassment and rape. Also against two students. Witch hunting, slut shaming, mental health shaming followed. Believes that only women can heal sexual harassment and that this is a step towards it. Even when we have a long way to go, so glad that for the first time in the country, women complainants of different educational institutes are joining hands. Hope to grow into the largest network of this nature in the country and formulation of sexual harassment policies specific to such places of learning and of work.
Fighting for justice since: December 2015
What we (will) do
Create noise. Sounds simple, but isn’t.
Speaking about sexual harassment is a taboo and this fact becomes even more evident if you take a look at the time of abuse and the time taken to make a complaint by most women. In fact, for the same reason, many of us have been called liars. Been accused of having 'enjoyed' the ‘companionship' (read sex) earlier and later ‘crying rape’ or sex abuse later.
WASH wants to crack this wall. So we have decided to create a lot of noise around sexual harassment in campuses so that people get annoyed. It is always a good sign when that happens. Any kind of resistance has, going by history, only met with annoyance at first. People are always just too cozy in their comfort zones where women are nice as long as they speak for patriarchy or well, does not speak at all. We are, in other words, women who speak.
The other aims include the following:
Create a large network of women and supporters from across the country. This will help us strategise better and move forward together in this battle. Women from across the country who have faced sexual harassment while in an educational institute or at workplace can join us. By join us, we mean being part of this noise creating, ideating, fighting group. Identities shall be protected. Do you remember the documentary called ‘The Hunting Ground’? When two women with the same problems got together, in the beginning there was noise, and then there was revolution. If everything goes well (it won’t, never does in the case of sexual harassment but we will stay alive and fight) we will be able to achieve the following:
· Institution-workplace specific sexual harassment policies,
· Immense content on sexual harassment in these spaces.
Justice for the complainants of SRFTI and JU (and others who will join later).
The final one is a very difficult task and all of us are, like we said in the introduction, people who have been fighting for it for a long time. The intention is to begin the fight in places where it has not begun and extend support in ways possible to us to all others who are currently fighting.
What YOU need to do:
If you are somebody who believes in this cause, write to us. We have a Facebook page. If you are a person who has been sexually harassed and who wants to talk about it or fight it, drop in a mail at kunjilamascillamaniATgmailDOTcom or leave a comment in my blog. I shall not publish it if you so ask.
So people, WASH is here. We are starting to wash out sexual harassment from campuses and workplaces. Come join us.