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Pune Bar Under Netizens’ Glare After Woman Speaks About Sexual Harassment And Sexism

And then more women spoke.

[Image: Collage from Twitter]

Trigger Warning: Contains descriptions of sexual harassment and sexually explicit language.

All of us know that women go to work to get harassed sexually and mentally, right? I mean who would go to office every day to work? We go there to listen to people talk about our bodies, things that are not even remotely related to our job, like porn or the body of celebrities, our opinion on porn – you know – everything men find interesting and fit to talk about in a workplace. Some people call this kind of behaviour sexual harassment but hey hey hey! Those are feminazis right there. They’re ‘like that only’.

So when editor and creative director of online magazine loverand.co, Sheena, wrote about the sexual harassment and sexism that was going on in a club in Pune called High Spirits, people naturally were like, ‘hey where’s that coming from?’

If this was a multiple choice question the options would be

  1. The woman is jealous, that’s where
  2. She wants attention, that’s why
  3. She is crazy, that’s how
  4. All of the above

What? There is a possibility that it could be coming from a thing called ‘truth’? No way, women lie about sexual harassment all the time. Didn’t you hear about Harvey Weinstein – the latest martyr in this battle waged by jobless, attention hungry women.

Sheena too faced these accusations when she spoke about High Spirits bar in Pune. And like in all cases of sexual harassment at workplaces, more and more women started speaking up about the harassment they had faced after Sheena spoke up.

Congratulations! You are a winner because I like your breasts!

According to Sheena and others, this bar has a work culture that is extremely hostile to women. Sexual harassment is a common occurrence. Even the prizes there are those that sexually harass women. One such is ‘The Best Breasts’ prize. Yeah, because it is absolutely cool to compare women workers’ or customers’ breasts and judge them. [Come on, ya, it’s a bar.]

Club rules

According to another woman who opened up to Sheena,

‘If you are dancing, that owner will come and try to hug you from behind. It doesn’t matter if he knows you or not.’

Sounds absolutely normal, doesn’t it? Hugging random women from behind. Consent? Sanity? To hell with those. This is a bar, ya! People come here to have fun. And alcohol. And I come here to forget that you need to ask someone before you touch them.

Threats if you visit another bar

Wonder where this is coming from. Could it be insecurity? That when women find out that people can be normal and professional at other bars, they will probably never want to go back to High Spirits where normal is sexual harassment?

Boycotts

Following Sheena’s tweets, many people started openly proclaiming that they were not going to visit the bar or perform there. These included stand up comedians like Abhishek Upmanyu and Karunesh Talwar and writer Mahima Kukreja. Stand up comedian Aditi Mittal also tweeted in solidarity. Tanmay Bhatt of All India Bakchod tweeted recounting an experience he had had at High Spirits. The owner had groped him on stage because he was ‘overweight,’ Bhat said.

Mahima_Kukreja_Karunesh_Talwar_Boycotting_High_Spirits_Pune
Boycott Sexual Harassers [Image: Twitter]

What are they saying?

The High Spirits cafe wrote back to us via e-mail that they denied all the allegations calling them ‘baseless and completely untrue’. They said that it seemed like the effort of just one person who only wanted to tarnish their ‘unblemished record’ of being in business for 13 years.

Umm, allow us to interrupt. It was not just one woman. There were at least seven other women who wrote to Sheena to speak about their experiences at the bar. She had posted all those screenshots as well.

Kurbi_Mehta_about_bullying_sexual_harassment_High_Spirits_Pune
Two other instances by another woman [Image: Twitter]
They also added that women’s safety had always been their priority.

The Boss

A woman employee at the place, Reena Joy, wrote to us saying that no woman had ever made any complaints to her and that Khodu Irani, boss and owner, had misbehaved with anyone. She explained how he was ‘protective’ of her.

This was odd given that we had not raised any questions regarding this man. In fact we had not even mentioned his name when we wrote to them. But there is one thing that you need to know.

If a company hired you and you saw that you were the only woman employee there, [Reena Joy said so about the time she joined High Spirits just a year and a half ago] it means that the company is inherently sexist. Maintaining a gender sensitive sex ratio is the first step to eradicate sexism in workplaces.

Sexual Harassment at Workplace

More importantly, if there is sexual harassment happening at the workplace, victims might not go to another employee. This is the reason why this country has a great thing in place called the Sexual Harassment Act of 2013. According to it, every workplace has to have an Internal Complaints Committee for Sexual Harassment. We asked if one such committee existed there and Reena said that she was the chairperson of the committee. Kind of weird, don’t you think?

When we looked up Mr Khodu, in the tweets, what was revealed was that he is a man who thought that feeling a woman up was not sexual harassment and that patting a woman’s butt was ‘asexual’. This was the content of one of the messages that was forwarded to Sheena by another victim. Khodu had said that ‘patting your butt may not always have a sexual connotation to it’ when the woman pointed out that he had almost felt her up once. And what about the following piece of wisdom?

sexual_harassment_Khodu_High_Spirits_Bar_Pune
Yet another woman who spoke up [Image: Sheena, Twitter]
Suppose one of the women who shared Irani’s sexually explicit messages and talks decided to take the matter up, she would have had to go to the same chairperson of ICC [Internal Complaints Committee] who thought Irani was very ‘protective’ of her.

Women holding power, can we all take a moment here and digest the fact that a person who is ‘protective’ of you can be n number of things to other women. They can be rude, arrogant, sexist or abusive. It’s no rocket science. It is high time that we stopped saying ‘it-never-happened-to-me-so-it-probably-isn’t-true’ whenever there is news of sexual harassment.

Now What?

Sheena repeated that her aim was not to make allegations. She is simply worried about the safety of women employees and customers. Going by the response from High Spirits, it seems like her worry needs to be addressed immediately.

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