Relevance: GS Paper I & II (Indian Society, Development and Welfare)
The #MeToo movement has taken India by storm. On social and traditional media, women have come out with disturbing accounts of sexually predatory behaviour by men, including famous ones. These accounts have successfully blown away the veil of shame and taboo that hung over the issue of sexual harassment.
- Politicians were mostly silent on the allegations against M.J. Akbar. Actor Nana Patekar has not shown any remorse after the allegations against him. Both have filed criminal defamation suits against their accusers. Thus, it’s hard to be hopeful and say that the behaviour of men will change after the #MeToo movement.
- Conversations around sexual harassment that were earlier hush-hush have become loud. Despite the number of men who have come out in support of #MeToo, it is unlikely that men will have a sudden change of heart.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, which replaced the Vishakha guidelines, was passed after the Delhi 2012 case. However, it has not been backed by additional resources.
- It is not just the lack of adequate resources that is a cause for concern; it is the view that levelling charges alone is enough to ensure that the accused faces punishment. So, instead of complainant and accused, we are happy to change our vocabulary to victim and perpetrator. This is a dangerous trend.
- Our criminal justice system has not been provided with sufficient additional resources to give teeth to the law. Something similar is happening with the #MeToo movement.
- #MeToo has enabled women to tell the oppressor that his power over them is not absolute and that it will not remain unchallenged.
- Male dominance over women is systematic and institutionalized. The next generation of women will not grow up with that flawed belief.
- Despite the vicious fightback by the accused and their supporters, powerful men are evidently rattled. For instance, a film production and distribution company, Phantom Films, has been dissolved; a Minister of State was forced to step down.
- Industries that had no sexual harassment policy or redress mechanisms are being forced to set up committees. Corporates are being forced to proclaim that they have zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
- #MeToo has given women the power to expose men, socially shame them, take away their jobs, and upset their private and professional lives.
- The sheer volume of stories and the unflinching solidarity for these women is unprecedented.
- It is too early to say if #MeToo will have far-reaching consequences, but it has the potential to dislodge oppressive attitudes towards women.
- By taking the conversation out of the realm of criminality, #MeToo has made visible misogynistic words and actions, and the spectre of an unequal, oppressive and sexist playing field.
- Real change requires that men hold themselves accountable. And for the first time, at least some men seem willing to listen, introspect, and let women lead this.
- The principles of natural justice and other fundamental precepts of our criminal justice system, namely innocent until proven guilty and proof beyond reasonable doubt, cannot be done away with so easily. Those narrating their plight on social media must be prepared to back it up with a formal criminal complaint.
- The success of #MeToo will depend on creating a sense of faith in due process, which, in turn, will depend on the capacity of our criminal justice system to have sensitive, fair, transparent and time-bound interactions with citizens.
- #MeToo will also have to find a way to transcend its small, elite and urban sphere of influence. to include women excluded by the nature of the medium on which this is playing out, women negotiating the intersection of caste and gender oppression and women for whom the stakes of speaking out are impossibly high.
For change to persist, fury will have to be followed by steadfastness, strategy, consensus building and concrete reforms.