A four page-letter shot off by a 2016-batch female student of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, accusing the institute administration of punishing her for reporting sexual harassment, has caused a storm within the campus and outside. In this letter, written on Monday, the girl describes the environment at FTII as “highly sexist, misogynistic and toxic” for women.
She is not the only female student to feel that way. In fact, in November 2017 as many as 27 female students from various batches had written to FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola, complaining about what they called the “non-committal” attitude of the administration in dealing with sexual harassment cases which, they alleged, lead to women not reporting cases of sexual misconduct due to lack of confidence in the redressal system.
Information obtained by The Indian Express using the Right To Information Act about cases of harassment dealt with by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) from May 2010 till December 2017 shows that all cases except one were “resolved” by the administration with “mutual understanding” between the harasser and the complainant.
As per information provided, there were a total of 13 complaints of sexual harassment raised by female staffers, students, interns or contractual workers from their male counterparts. The information shows that out of these, nine were disposed of till March 2017, when the RTI response was given, and in only one case was any kind of action taken against the alleged harasser. A majority of cases were resolved with “mutual understanding” or “compromise” or “counselling”.
The only case in which any sort of punitive action seems to have been taken had happened in March 2014, when a contractual male staffer had reportedly “misbehaved with and sexually harassed” the complainant (not clear if student or staff member). The contractual staffer employed by an outside agency was removed from the services in the same year.
By the end of March this year, four more complaints were received from the internal affairs committee, and inquiries in each of the four cases were going on by the time information was provided to The Indian Express, on March 27, 2018.
A former student of the 2011 batch said that the information obtained by The Indian Express showed why “misogynists thrive at the campus”. She requested not to be named.
“The FTII is sexist beyond repair. Even the film industry is not so sexist. The institute administration has a history of underreporting cases of sexual misconduct. Even when the victim insists on filing a complaint, the administration has the habit of putting the victim into a situation where she goes for a settlement. Whenever a complaint is made, the entire community stands with the male harasser, portraying him as the victim and portraying the complainant as the perpetrator,” said the female student.
The student, who has now written to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, said women were treated as “second-class citizens” on the FTII campus. “I was never more aware of being a woman than I am at FTII. There’s no level playing field here. Sexual abuse is rampant and most of it goes unreported,” she said.
FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola told The Indian Express that FTII was committed to ensuring a campus with no gender discrimination. “FTII is committed to a campus which does not discriminate along gender lines. The institute follows a zero tolerance policy towards any form of oppression, including ragging and sexual harassment. To further promote this policy, since August 2017, FTII has conducted several gender sensitisation workshops for students and teachers, by reputed subject expert,” Kainthola said in a response sent in March.
“The FTII is striving hard to enhance the sense of security among girl students by working towards hiring more women teachers and increasing the intake of girl students,” he added.