The MeToo movement that began in the year 2017 has been making waves around the globe. Post entering the territories of India, it has made its presence felt on the subject of sexual harassment at workplace, abuse of power, and violence across industries. But what is this MeToo movement?
#MeToo is a social movement empowering woman to come forward with the plight originating from violence or sexual harassment at workplaces, or to speak out on their experiences, to expose and combat various forms of sexual misconduct. The victims can narrate their version of the story by labelling it under the hashtag MeToo on social media to raise awareness among the masses.
The history behind this movement dates to the year 2006 when Ms Tarana Burke, an advocate for women in New York, coined this term to empower women who had endured sexual violence. This was done to let them know that they were not alone, and reflect that other women had suffered the same experience(s) as they had.
There have been accounts and narratives of erstwhile celebrities, purported victims such as female actors, directors, writers, corporate members, bloggers or social media users, describing their sufferings at the hands of alleged offenders. Many women have come out in the open to narrate their ordeals on social media and are braving the social front, receiving a mixed response from people.
Some have extended their support to the victims, while some have put forth the following question- “why come up with MeToo after years of torment and file a complaint now?”
The air around these scandals is being met with incredulity. Primarily, because they lack sufficient evidence to support their claim and the perpetrators happen to be in the position of authority and power.
Since it involves popular and powerful people, common man fails to fathom the involvement of their favourite celebrities in such heinous crimes. The accusers’ are sine qua non put up with the onus to prove their accusations.
Imagine, a victim of a crime being asked to narrate and relive her ordeal. Being asked to retell a crippling memory, or be branded as a liar. The mindset of the society at large brandishes women as making allegations for publicity or money. Although in some instances the same has been proven to be true.
However, the truth of the matter remains that the perpetrator(s) target their victims meticulously. They oppress the ones they perceive weak. The victim, snubbed by finances, social and disparity status, recuses from sharing and or filing a complaint against the ordeal suffered by them.
If you have observed, the pattern of the MeToo movement everywhere has been similar to the USA. It came into the global limelight with a list of sexual harassment accusations against the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Coby, Bill O’Reilly, and Donald Trump. These accused varied from actors, producers, stand up comedians, news-reporters, politicians, judges and the President of U.S.A.
The instance of the U.S.A. Supreme Court nominee, per se jurist, Mr Michael Kavanaugh and his subsequent confirmation sheds light on the social disparity against victims. Allegedly, three victims came forward to narrate sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Kavanaugh. Two of them, one is a Professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and another a research psychologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, gave sworn testimony before the confirmation committee. Despite that, post a hasty investigation, the victim(s) were openly mocked by Donald Trump, the President of U.S.A., in a public rally.
It is the above behaviour and pattern that compels victims from coming into public or file a complaint. They are met with disbelief and are mocked socially. Their morality is questioned. Their career, personal lives are put on media trial, where people weigh in and comment. However, the same stands true against the accused. If proven innocent, the accused are met with social mockery and suffering.
Presently in India, former Ms India and actor Tanushree Dutta raised a sexual harassment complaint against the veteran actor Nana Patekar and director Vivek Agnihotri. This sent ripples across the nation, causing other women to come forward and brave their ordeals in public.
Actors like Sandhya Mridul came in support of Vinata Nanda on sexual harassment charges against actor Alok Nath. Actor Kangana Ranaut and other women have made sexual harassment allegations against director Vikas Bahl. While senior journalist Priya Ramani and other women journalists have made sexual harassment allegations against the Cabinet Minister and veteran editor M.J. Akbar. However, M.J. Akbar, last perceived, still enjoys a relevant position in India.
However, they all have met with legal deterrents, media trial, and legal notices.
Similar cases have also been reported against comedians such as Gursimran Khamba (Co-founder of All India Bakchod), Varun Grover and Utsav Chakraborty. However, some maligned MeToo complaints against Kanan Gill and Chetan Bhagat (best-selling author) have been met with public criticism owing to mis-utilisation of the campaign.
The outreach of the waves was also felt when a co-founder of a writing company having presence amongst youngsters on social media, Terribly Tiny Tales (ttt), was accused of sexual harassment by various women.
To clear the air, the aforesaid instances are mere allegations at the present juncture, corroborated by the victims’ account. Wherein, some of the accused have admitted and stepped aside in light of the allegations. But is this enough?
What do the victims of sexual assaults need to do in order to get justice against the ordeal(s)?
Currently, the victims are braving various fronts and coming forward to narrate their MeToo stories. They are finding their voice through a medium. They are breaking their silence and holding their oppressors accountable for crimes. But merely name-calling on social media and recusing from a definite intent is also resulting in a questioning of the entire MeToo movement. With some labelling, it as- “an asphyxiating vortex of litigation”.
It is not justice to brandish a people as the perpetrator(s) on the mere allegation(s). A due process of law is necessary to be involved, else the legal lacuna would bring further gender disparity and inequality. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provide women with provisions against sexual harassment and misconduct by male colleagues or other forms of oppression, however, as aforementioned, the oppressors choose their victims carefully. And sometimes, the men are oppressed and not vice versa.
In the absence of fact-checking, the men do not have any definite law protecting them from harassment at the hand of women colleagues or gender. In order to maintain gender equality and serve justice, provisions for men and women both ought to be made to make them feel safe. Their stories need to be brought forward without the fear of being shamed, mocked or judged in the public.
Rather than inspiring fatigue and outrage, amidst the emotionally dense communication, the victims ought to have a safe space to come forward and be heard by the system. Until then, the oppressor shall continue to oppress.
Let us extend our support to the voices and move beyond social media and hashtags.
Let us give more power to the victims, bereft of the gender. For it is the silence of the spectators that hurts society more than the perpetrators.