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Service in the interest of Justice

METOOMOVEMENT IN INDIA

In the patriarchal society, allegations against men in power are frequently not taken seriously by the authorities and, if they make it to court, intimidation of victims and coercion of witnesses is commonplace.

But actress Tanushree  Dutta has brought the #Me-too movement to India after accusing her award-winning co-star Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on a film set 10 years ago.

At the time, she left the set of Horn Ok Pleases and made an official complaint, but nothing happened until now in the wake of the #Me-too movement. Patekar denies the charges.

It has taken a while but the movement is gaining traction in India, with actresses and politicians giving their support to those who speak out.

Ever since Tanushree Dutta, in an interview, alleged that Nana Patekar misbehaved with her while filming a special song for Horn Ok Pleases in 2008, many well-known comedians, journalists, and actors have been named and shamed on social media in the past few days as allegations of sexual misconduct continue to burst out.

Since Dutta spoke out, other actresses have subsequently come forward to open up about their experiences in the industry.

Director SajiddKhan has been accused by two women of sexual abuse, prompting him to step down from House full 4, a popular comedy film franchise.

Writer Vinita Nanda accused actor Alok Nath of rape and sexual misconduct in 1998, saying the incident made her depressed and mentally disturbed, causing her to leave the film industry

Also Read- SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN IN INDIA

The unfortunate series of accusations include women being sent lewd pictures, texts and videos along with invitation by powerful men to indulge sexually without consent. Similar to the West, Indian women have spoken out about objectification in more than just the film industry. Journalists have come out with chilling details about being bullied by some of the more established peers. Assault cases are also being reported against comedians, writers, singers, directors, authors among many others.

Bollywood Biggies

The Indian film industry, which is known to maintain silent on controversial issues, saw the onset of the #Me-too movement with actress Tanushree Dutta calling out veteran actor Nana Patekar on a film set ten years ago.

Her bold move encouraged actresses including Kananga Ranaut and Nayani Dixit to speak out against popular filmmaker Vikas Bahl (the man behind Netflix’s Sacred Games) of sexual advances. Filmmaker and actor Rajat Kapoor was exposed by three women who called out his misbehaviour.

Filmmaker and scriptwriter Subhash Kapoor was accused by actress Geetika Tyagi of molestation. Actress Flora Saini spoke of harassment by producer Gaurang Doshi. Bollywood singer Sona Mohapatra accused singer Kailash Kher of sexual misconduct.

Also Read- SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINT

The Importance Of Listening

If a woman feels that she has been violated in any way, it is because she has been

In India, Me Too began not in October 2018, but a year ago, just weeks after the Harvey Weinstein allegations started snowballing into a global movement. Raya Sarkar put out her crowd-sourced list of sexual predators in the academia. If in the West, feminist Germaine Greer dismissed the “whingeing” Me Too by women “who spread their legs” for a part in a movie and Margaret Atwood cautioned against “vigilante justice, lynch-mob habit”, in India over a dozen prominent feminist academicians and activists decried Raya’s list as something that would “delegitimise the long struggle against sexual harassment”.

Their insistence on following “due process” refused to take into account the agonising tales of survivors doubly victimised by the systems meant to protect them. Just how many Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) against sexual harassment at corporate workplaces or in the academia are all-women cells or at least headed by women? In the absence of systemic redress, to term a woman’s act of speaking out as witch-hunt is to rob her of the sole recourse she has — her voice.

In the last one year, the gains made by Me Too and Time’s Up in Hollywood, sports, church, and politics have changed the perception of these stories as mere “he-said-she-said” accounts. This explains the wide support to the Indian women in journalism, and across media, who are coming forward since last week to share their accounts. The Time’s Up spectrum also includes endemic workplace issues such as the culture of toxic masculinity, boys’ clubs, and lack of gender pay parity. Feminist theorist Chris Weedon describes patriarchy as “power relations in which women’s interests are subordinated to the interests of men”. Patriarchy is about power and its many manifestations and, therefore, the current issue ranges beyond sexual abuse. Women with multiple subordinate identities owing to their caste, class, sexual orientation, disabilities are worst affected by these patriarchal structures. It is important to remember that the history of the western feminist movement shows how it has often been exclusionary with black feminists criticising and often disassociating themselves from “white feminism”. The movement in India has to question the erasure of Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi women’s narratives and amplify the voices that speak out.

There was a time when women kept quiet about sexual harassment in the workplace because they were made to believe that they have to deal with it and that it is not as serious a concern as rape. Anyone trying to define what constitutes acceptable survivor accounts will risk falling into a similar trap. If a woman feels that she has been violated in any way, it is because she has been.

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Credit to our star writer- Sumitra Nair for this wonderful and thought-breaking post.

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