The action of Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit patting the cheek of journalist Lakshmi Subramanian sparked outrage among other journalists who have demanded an apology from him.(Lakshmi Subramanain/Twitter)
Shri Banwarilal Purohit
The Governor of Tamil Nadu
Raj Bhavan, Chennai – 600 022
SUB: Harassment of senior journalist by your esteemed self
It is with great shock that we write this letter to you. As the Constitutional head of our State of Tamil Nadu, you have crossed lines of not just basic courtesy but also those of the law.
Your action today in touching the cheek of a senior lady reporter who asked you a question at the press meet was patronising at best and a violation of her rights as a woman at worst. She was there since you had called for a press meet and she was simply discharging her duty as a journalist.
We do not wish to question your motives on this gesture, considering that it is appalling that you should choose to do such a thing at a press meet that you addressed on the case of a professor allegedly luring students to sexual encounters with her seniors and who claimed to know you.
It, however, does not behove the Constitutional head of a State to throw basic courtesy and respect to the winds and attempt to touch a lady without her consent, even if the gesture may have been ‘paternal’ in nature.
We would like to draw your attention to Section 2 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998, which defines ‘harassment’.
“Harassment” means any indecent conduct or act by a man which causes or is likely to cause intimidation, fear, shame or embarrassment, including abusing or causing hurt or nuisance or assault or use of force.
We would also urge you to read this along with Section 4 of the same Act which is reproduced below for your kind perusal.
“Whoever commits or participates or abets harassment of women in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine, which shall not be less than Rs.10,000.”
The offence is cognisable and non-bailable as your esteemed staff will point out.
Mr Governor, we the journalists of Tamil Nadu demand that you offer an unconditional apology to the journalist in question and also assure all journalists of Tamil Nadu that you will not violate their rights in the future.
The Journalists of Tamil Nadu
NWMI condemns Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s misconduct towards
The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI), a collective of women media professionals across India, strongly condemns the patronising behaviour of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, towards a woman journalist, Lakshmi Subramanian, at a press conference held in Chennai on Tuesday, April 17. The Governor decided to pat Lakshmi on the cheek when asked a question by the journalist – an act that amounts to sexual harassment at the workplace under the laws of the country.
The Governor on Tuesday was addressing an unprecedented press conference in Chennai, which according to him was for his completing six months in office. During the press conference, the Governor was fielding tough questions from reporters regarding a sex-for-cash scandal at a college under the Madurai Kamaraj University, where he is the Chancellor. A controversial audio tape that has emerged has the voice of a woman professor trying to lure women students into sex work for ‘high officials’ in the University. In the course of the conversation, the professor also names the TN Governor, and says she knows him quite well.
In the course of the press conference, the Governor dismissed questions of his involvement, and did not have any answers to why, as a person named in the tape, he wasn’t distancing himself from the investigation.
And right as the press conference was ending, Lakshmi, a senior journalist with The Week, asked him a question. Instead of answering it, he decided to touch her without her consent. NWMI strongly condemns the unprofessional behaviour of the Governor, and demand an unconditional apology from him to Lakshmi, and to women journalists across the country. Such misconduct from a top government official cannot be excused under any pretext.
We would like to reiterate what is understood world over about sexual harassment: The intention of the harasser does not count. What matters is how the person on the receiving end feels. So for the Governor, or any of his supporters, to dismiss any allegations of inappropriate conduct with statements like, “I am old enough to be your grandfather,” cannot be excused. Does that mean that in every case where the accused is above a certain age, they should be automatically acquitted or forgiven?
This is not the first instance of a woman journalist being patronised on the field. Recently, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijayabaskar repeatedly told a woman journalist that she was beautiful to evade her questions.
NWMI stands with Lakshmi, and we hope that the Governor will apologise at the earliest. Further, we demand that all men in high offices follow decorum when meeting with women journalists, and condemn any attempts to trivialise such harassment.