In a bizarre statement, Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan has defended casting couch in the industry and also said that women can avoid assault if they so chose. She was asked to give her opinion on Telugu actor Sri Reddy’s protest against casting couch at a press event, when Saroj said, “Ek baat batau ye to chala aa raha hai baba adam ke zamane se. Har ladki ke upar koi na koi haath saaf karne ki koshish karta hai.Government karti hai (This is not a new thing, this has existed for a long time. Everyone wants to take advantage of girls, even the government).”
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And then came the really bizarre statement,”Government ke log karte hain to tum film industry ke peeche kyun pade ho? Wo to roti to bhi deti hai, rape karke chorr to nahi deti. (Even people in the government abuse girls and women, why are you after the film industry? The industry also provides livelihood, it does not discard the woman after that).”
She then took the typical route of blaming the victim and said, “Wo mat bolo, wo ladki ke upar hai ki tum kya karna chahti ho. Tum uske haath me nahi aana chahte ho to tum nahi aoge, tumhare paas art hai to tum kyu apne aapko bechoge? Film industry ka naam nahi lena wo humari mai baap hai. (What a woman wants depends on her, if she does not want to be a victim then she won’t be one. If you have your art, why would you sell yourself? Do not blame the film industry, it is what provides us our livelihood).”
Reacting to Saroj’s statements, British actor-model Sophie Choudry took to Twitter to express her anger. “WTH?!!!! So much respect for Saroj-ji as a choreographer but this is how she uses her position to protect girls?!!! If I didn’t come from a financially sound background I would have returned to London within a month of being in mumbai cos of “industry folk” who think like that!! Can’t begin to think what thousands of girls go through in the hope that their “dreams” will come true! Nobody wants to sleep with someone for work. But they are made to feel it’s the only way & “acceptable”. And for those who don’t, it’s a tough road! This has to stop! #TimesUp,” she wrote.
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With movements like Me Too and Time’s Up gaining prominence, Saroj Khan’s defence of a sexual harassment and casting couch is not only bizarre but distasteful.
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In Hollywood, over two dozen women accused influential producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and even rape. Many powerful names in the industry were eventually accused of sexual misdemeanours and the movements soon spread across the globe.