Politicians and Bollywood Actresses Call for Indian #MeToo Movement

India’s Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury, speaks during a national conference on “Save the Girl Child” in New Delhi April 28, 2008. (B Mathur/Reuters)

Bollywood actresses and a female member of India’s Congress have begun calling for the #MeToo movement in the country, fed up with what they see as the country’sculture of sexual misconduct.

Actress Radhika Apte described a dark underside of the Indian film industry in Bollywood’s Dark Secret, a new BBC World News documentary that will air over the weekend.

“Some people are regarded as gods. They are so powerful that people just don’t think that my voice is going to matter, or people think that if I speak, probably my career is going to get ruined,” Apte, who stars in the movie PadMan, told the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan.

“The way the women, and the men of course, came together and decided that as a team we are not going to let this happen, I wish that could happen here,” Apte said of the #MeToo movement sparked by last year’s reports of misconduct by Hollywood power-broker Harvey Weinstein.

Another Bollywood actress, Usha Jadhav said she was told by a powerful executive that she would have to sleep with producers, directors, or both to keep her position, and added that such demands are common in the Hindi film industry.

Former Rajya Sabha member and Indian National Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury called out sexual harassment within the walls of the Indian government as well.

“It is the bitter truth,” Chowdhury said. “With women, it happens everywhere. So don’t imagine that Parliament is immune or some other work space is immune.”

Chowdhury was particularly incensed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for saying her laugh reminded him of a character in the serial Ramayan.

“You have taken away my dignity in Parliament when the prime minister spoke in a way that is derogatory to my status as a woman,” she said.

The women’s allegations mirror accusations in the U.S. against Hollywood executives and members of Congress since the #MeToo movement exploded last fall. More than 80 women accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct as news reports broke that he had abused his power in the movie-making business for decades. Members of Congress were also called to account, including Senator Al Franken, who was forced to resign after numerous allegations of misconduct surfaced.

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