Life on this piece of rock that we call Earth has never been a bed of roses, especially for women. Man, in his arrogance and self-pride, has kept women deprived of their basic human rights, even the right to live. Man considered woman as a commodity, that he could own and use for pleasure. However, with the passage of time and with the spread of awareness, women did realize that they would have to stand up to men and deal with them on equal terms.
Today, we live in a world that claims to give men and women equal rights and where several laws have been made to protect women, their rights and dignity. Despite all the development and progress that we have made as a society, some men still try to use and abuse women in one way or the other, making life difficult for women, especially at workplaces.
Originally sparked off in the US on October of 2017 the #MeToo movement unmasked this very demonic nature of men. Starting with Harvey Weinstein this movement exposed sexual misconducts of numerous high profile individuals.
Exactly a year later this movement has gripped India taking social media by storm with lots of complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct against prominent actors, journalists, movie directors, and other public figures. Started trending in India after Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta, who in an interview, alleged that her co-actor Nana Patekar – another Bollywood bigwig – misbehaved with her on set while shooting for a film in 2008. Thereon, with each passing day new names with allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced including a junior minister of the India government.
Indian women are angry, very angry now and this anger needs to thrive. The demand for justice has gained a significant position among the masses. So, what’s the need of the hour now is to channelize this anger in the right direction. Women need to be clear about what it means to be sexually or verbally harassed. If they do not make the right use of their voice, then the whole motive of such movements will diminish and if incidents of unjust or untrue allegations come to surface, such movements will be looked upon as unimportant or even a joke. Hence, any irresponsible behaviour on the part of the victim as well as the high authorities will altogether trivialize the purpose of such movements.
Unlike in US where the movement found support from Hollywood celebs like Jennifer Lawrence, Ashley Judd, Uma Thurman and Gwyneth Paltrow, in India we should expect the least from the superstars – or else the bigwigs in Bollywood wouldn’t have shied away from commenting, by simply stating ‘neither I am Tanushree nor Nana Patekar, so how can I comment about this’. A well-known person in public arena is like a role model-a person to whom people look up. The common man would gather courage to voice the injustices if they see their role model. Alas! For Indian film industry women empowerment is a talking point only when it comes to selling their movies. Those in the highlands of power, fame and wealth has continued to be spineless.
It is highly essential for women to be aware of their rights and not just silently condemn sexual or verbal harassment but rather raise their voices against it because one woman’s silence would not only mean injustice to million others but also the high authorities will get a chance to hide the discrepancies in the country. They will easily carry the tag of “all is well” while keeping the grave issues out of the limelight.
The onus to ensure that timely justice is served also lies with the government – but going by recent chain of events – the indication is in the opposite direction! While the lesser known accused have either stepped aside or resigned from their positions pending investigation but those in the super leagues of power enjoys impunity and continues to blatantly deny all allegations. In most cases, they brazenly attempt to shut the victims with legal notices. The most recent one being the junior minister with the government of India, MJ Akbar, as he has decided to take on 14 women, 2 of whom were teenagers when they say he sexually harassed them, with court cases.
Furthermore, the journalism spectrum in India has a huge and important role to play in the movement. While in US the movement originated as a result of a one-year investigation collecting evidence against Harvey Weinstein by New York Times and the successive article thereafter, however in India the movement has stemmed out of the social media. Therefore, the Indian press should adhere utmost carefulness regarding the facts of the allegations, to ensure this movement is not being misused to vilify or settle personal vendetta against any individual.
Though with the independence of electronic and print media, as well as the availability of social media, women have got several platforms to raise their voice but still they feel shy to talk about being sexually harassed, mainly due to what the society will say, because even if they do, they are the ones who will be shamed as men will simply deny the accusations. No one sheds light on the bleak condition of women at workplaces where they always feel like being on the verge of abuse and harassment. This threatening sense of fear crumbles the self-confidence of women, rendering them less efficient at work as well as in personal life.
Women need to understand the power of their words. False cries and wrongful outrage will bring about nothing, nor will silence.
To those very few who speak up for their right of protection and decipher their stories, due importance is not given, and the case is parked for an unknown date that never commences. While legally what happens is still inconclusive but a clear cut strong message has definitely gone out to men folks out there. If not anything it will manage to instill a fear among men with perverted attitude to conduct themselves with dignity in professional world – dude, you may take advantage of legal loopholes but cannot get away with the hazards of naming and shaming.
The ‘Me Too’ movement demonstrates the gravity of the issue of sexual harassment and its widespread prevalence, especially in the workplace. This 21st Century demands justice, freedom of speech and provision of rights for women.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.