What Weinstein Means for Women in India
On October 5, The New York Times published a story quoting many women who said one of Hollywood’s most powerful film producers, 65-year-old Harvey Weinstein, had sexually harassed or assaulted them. He had intimidated or bought their silence. Then, The New Yorker published its investigation into charges of the predatory sexual behaviour of the elder of two Weinstein brothers who founded Miramax, sold it and now control The Weinstein Company and its offshoots. These allegations date back nearly 30 years. Victims include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, as well as aspiring actresses, and female employees, current and former, of his companies. The revelations have shaken Hollywood, a bastion of liberal, democratic values to its core. Weinstein has been sacked, the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (Bafta) has suspended him, he might be stripped of his honorary awards, including a CBE, a British award second only to a knighthood. Hillary Clinton has condemned him and bosses of the Oscars are in a tizzy over the enormity of Weinstein’s alleged crimes. This raises a sinister question: if Weinstein, in the spotlight of Hollywood, could threaten or bribe his way out of sexual crimes, if A-listers like Jolie and Paltrow were mute victims of sexual abuse, what safety can India guarantee its working women? Around 90% of them are in the unorganised sector, which treats employees as sub-humans; students and women in the organised workforce are exposed to daily sexual harassment, quaintly termed ‘eve-teasing’. What the Weinstein expose shows is that laws and institutions will not suffice to curb sexual predation. Unless women speak out and they get support from social activism and mainstream political campaigns.