Sexual harassment complaint against ScoopWhoop co-founder: Is the new media industry on a downward spiral?

ScoopWhoop sexual harassment

2017 has opened a can of worms for new age media entities as yet another gruesome event of sexual harassment comes forward, this time against Suparn Pandey, Co-Founder, ScoopWhoop.

Reportedly, the former senior executive worked with the popular publishing company for two years, during which she was subjected to “inappropriate comments and lewd remarks.” Media reports further suggest that the senior executive raised concerns about the issue with ScoopWhoop’s other co-founder, Sriparna Tikekar, who appeared to be reluctant about taking any actions against Suparn.

The matters further worsened when the senior executive was allegedly publicly humiliated and forced to work with Suparn in closed quarters.

The FIR has been filed against at the Vasant Kunj police station in Delhi where Suparn has been booked under Indian penal code sections, 354 A (sexual harassment), section 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman), and section 506 (criminal intimidation).

The event comes close on the heels of the infamous harassment case against TVF co-founder Arunabh Kumar after a user under the name of Indian Fowler narrated her horror tale of harassment at work place. Followed by the blog nearly 50 women came forward claiming to have gone through the same harrowing incident.

If the FIR is to be believed, Suparn publicly commented on the senior executive’s sexuality and sexual preferences. A part of the FIR reads:

‘Mr. Pandey approached me after the meeting, between 8-9:30PM, when I was alone at my work desk and asked me to be less “aggressive” in my dealings with other people and learn to “pour some sugar on it.” That after that, he then got up, kissed my forehead and walked away.’

In spite of the repeated complains, the senior executive claims inaction by ScoopWhoop, while she was further publicly humiliated and dissuaded from filing a complaint.

Sexual harassment at workplace is a MYTH

Google defines sexual harassment as “harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.”

But, the para-modern workplaces definitely don’t go through that. No one ever makes sexual advances and obscene remarks. And all who say they have been sexually harassed are lying. Because what happens is chilled out remarks on social media display pictures, breezy comments on what would happen if two people hooked up and of course absolutely banal sharing of images and videos which or might have graphic images. Who’s to know!

Arunabh Kumar’s defence against the harassment complaint was, “The kind of insinuations the FB post makes are untrue. I am a heterosexual, single man and when I find a woman sexy, I tell her she’s sexy. I compliment women. Is that wrong? Having said that, I am very particular about my behavior – I will approach a woman, but never force myself.’

See what I mean? Sexual harassment is a myth. This is just we being we, soaking in the default patriarchy which we have been groomed in.

While I absolutely refuse to comment on whether or not Suparn is wrong without any investigation, I certainly hope they react better than TVF did.

To give you brief account, Team TVF went on a denial spree on Twitter, refusing to accept that one of their own, could be responsible for such a gruesome deed and while reporting this instance ScoopWhoop did publish a couple of strong articles which is the media industry’s glimmer of hope right now.

What is Vishakha?

The smallest and the simplest answer would be, Vishakha is a law that most companies do not follow.

The Tarun Tejpal case brought to light on how a magazine that wrong of women issues didn’t have a redressal mechanism that Vishakha makes mandatory.

Yet, it is important to know this law, how this applies to you and how you can use it in such situations. In 1997, the Supreme Court of India released a formal set of guidelines after a PIL was filed by Bhanwari Devi, a rape victim from Rajasthan. According to the guidelines, sexual harassment includes:

  1. a) Physical contact and advances;
  2. b) A demand or request for sexual favours;
  3. c) Sexually coloured remarks;
  4. d) Showing pornography;
  5. e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

considering the year in which Vishakha was established, it doesn’t specifically speak about sexual harassment that happens through internet, apps, and social media. What do you do now?

Due to the lack of laws to convict offenders using social media, it is you who has to take the onus of your own safety and wellbeing. In retrospect of all the sexual harassment cases that came out on social media this year, there are a few particular things one can look out for.

Do not wait: Most instances of sexual harassment came out only after a couple of months. It is understandable that you need time and courage to speak up, but, the more time you take the more time they get to come up with arguments. Pass of their acts as casual ways of interacting.

Don’t worry about your career: Yes, you might lose your job at that particular place, but there is sea of jobs out there. Few in number, but people do understand these things and will be more than happy to laud your courage and hire you for your work.

Don’t give up: To give you a reminder, there has been no aggressive follow up on the Arunabh Kumar case post the FIR. Follow up with the authorities, follow up with the company, keep it alive on social media with petitions, but don’t give up.

Someone out there set a domino effect in motion when the first sexual harassment complaint against TVF was filed and since then the socialverse has been a part of this revolution. You too be can be a part of this voice!


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