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The Official Arrival Of #MeToo In India

American civil rights activist and founder of neo-feminist movement #MeToo, Tarana Burke asked women to open up about sexual harassment they've experienced in the past, or facing it right now. She said, “You don’t have to tell your story, you just have to say Me Too.”  Since then, there have been shocking accounts of women describing their unfortunate experiences, and thereby holding a mirror to the civilised society. They range from stories of assault to stalking to intimidation. With each further account making clear that there was a systemic pattern of abuse and silence.

Now as a hashtag, #MeToo symbolises solidarity and support of thousands and is today one of the most momentous contemporary movements globally. The reason for the success of this movement, obviously, is the popularity of social media and the involvement of many well-known people mainly from the entertainment industry of Hollywood.

MeToo Arrives India

metoo in India timesup for sexual harassment

Now, it seems that MeToo has arrived India. Meltwater, a media intelligence company, tracked and analysed mentions of the hashtag and movement. What the data indicates is that the movement is new to the Indian shores – with 17,500 mentions of #MeToo in the editorial news in the last month, 95% of which were in the last seven days alone. Of the considerable number of global mentions of #MeToo, the word “India” trended alongside it with 46,000 mentions which solidify the fact that the movement is making waves in India. But, it’s not something to rejoice. It is a moment of shame and must disturb us all.

C:\Users\Philippa\Documents\Meltwater\metoo new 2.jpg
Credit: meltwater

It was discovered that globally, India has been the most vocal about the #MeToo movement with 25% of the chatter stemming from India overtaking even the USA. On the social media front, there are no signs of slowing down with over 2 and a half million mentions globally in just one week. there is another hashtag #TimesUp that trended in India along with the #MeToo, which can be seen as an extension, or Indian version of the latter, where abuse survivors demand that “Time’s Up” and sexual harassment, in any form, will not be tolerated anymore.

C:\Users\Philippa\Documents\Meltwater\metoo new 1.jpg
Credit: meltwater

The recent bump is created after actor Tanushree Dutta’s allegations, in an interview in end-September, of harassment at the hands of actor Nana Patekar on a film set a decade ago. Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar, along with a group of journalists, for speaking up against former Union Minister M J Akbar, can be credited for bringing or reviving this movement in India. But actors and politicians who are used to say lies on purpose; hypnotising people, taking them in confidence. They cannot be trusted blindly, their real life is a complete mystery. So let’s just stick to the issue and not delve deeper into Bollywood or Hollywood.

#MeToo Tells A Story Of Melancholy

There was a time when influential people, those in power or holding an important position in a company or government department, can harass working women for their enjoyment at their will. Like a piece of cake. And many times they’re told that “it’s your fault miss”. The victim cannot do anything but get subdued in the patriarchal society. With a false sense of humiliation, they chose to remain silent, only to embolden the offender. This is another reason that explains the low participation of women in the workforce in India. Who can work being susceptible to bodily abuse? Besides, there is emotional torment too, making the environment prone to doubts, suspicion and insecurity. As a measure of precaution, their family will never allow them to join in the first place. The lower number of women working means lower female literacy, which in turn means a backward society, lower sex-ratio as a result of the higher number of female foeticides. How much social evils linked to one thing! Such things exist even now. But with awareness and some rigid laws, things have improved significantly. Hope it'll improve further.

India has so far been better placed in terms of sexual harassment at the workplace. Mostly because most women stay at home; not because all Indians are like sanskaari babuji Alok Nath, the man with incorruptible morals. However, in a shocking #MeToo account, he appears to be not-so-sanskaari in his real life. See I forgot that it is too just an allegation right now. But India performs very poor in case of sexual harassment at the private places.

An Elite Movement

As there are celebs and high-profile people involved, there will be an overemphasis of certain cases, and also those involving politicians. Therefore, it'll give people entertaining news material. Matters they can discuss when they’re getting bored. It’ll also give rise to the celebrity wars. In this way, the revolutionary movement, as per claims, will be trivialized, or reduced to an elite movement. Also, a hashtag cannot provide justice, the legal procedure is the same — time consuming, expensive, and so scary. Something because of which the commoners chose to remain silent. Moreover, there is a counter of a defamation suit by which the victim can be victimised again.

Are We Ready?

Now that the stigma is broken and women are speaking up, making public their suppressed memories, are we ready for the sea of accusations? The judiciary is certainly not prepared for this. Neither is the law enforcement bodies. Because it is easy to allege a sexual harassment charge but difficult to prove. Something that happened years ago is even more difficult. Nevertheless, the story of horror needs to come out in the open but with a caution that an accused not be treated as guilty unless proven. As we all know the moment someone is accused, they're treated as guilty which is not good for a healthy society. It can turn the life of accused upside down. In worse cases, in a badly policed state of India, there can be a mob attack too.

So, there must also be provisions to stop the abuse or misuse of law. The hashtag against harassment could be another harassment. This time for men. And, it’ll give rise to stereotyping of men. Because not every allegation is true or every man is a womanizer, always looking for ghapa ghap (get laid) with their good-looking colleague. Because boys will be boys. Men will be men. But the stereotype is not a major problem for men, is it? ( Pyaar ki raah mein chalna seekh... )

What to do, what not to do is the dilemma only the lawmakers and jury can understand best. For now, I think, these women need to be heard.

This is what a typical sexual harassment looks like :
(Thanks to Nana for illustrating it! Though the actor here is Nana, the act has nothing to do with Nana's real character. I hope so!)


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