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In 2006, an African-American social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke used the phrase ‘Me Too’ on a social networking website Myspace. This was done as part of a campaign to promote ‘empowerment through empathy’. Later, in 2017, an American actress Alyssa Milano encouraged the hashtag ‘#MeToo’ on various social media platforms with a purpose to ‘give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem’. Both these initiatives provided a platform for the victims (mostly female) to share their stories and stand in solidarity with each other. The magnitude of victims sharing their stories led to the beginning of #MeToo movement.

Furthermore, in India, #MeToo movement progressed because of the Hindi-film actor Tanushree Dutta, who not just shared her #MeToo story but also filed a legal complaint against the accused. The MeToo movement in India gave power to the victim to call out their sexual predator and gave a chance to fight for justice, which was not easy before because of the tendency of the society to victim shame and be ignorant. More often, the accused was in a position of power that withheld the victim to take any stringent action.  What took India’s #MeToo movement to trigger is the act of filing a legal complaint against accused irrespective of the social status of the accused.

Another famous Hindi film industry producer, screenwriter and director Vikas Bahl were accused by a woman on social media anonymously for sexual harassment. Unlike, actor Tanushree Dattu, she refrained from using legal recourse stating that “the reason she has not made any police complaint is that such complaints further lead to victimization of the sexual assault survivors”. To this Vikas Bahl replied saying “I will have no opportunity to clean my name, looking at the stand of the woman”. Similarly, writer and stand-up comedian Varun Grover were accused of sexual harassment by a woman (anonymously) who claims herself to be his junior at IIT-BHU. Later, Varun Grover wrote an open letter explaining his version of the story and supporting the #MeToo movement. He ended his letter by urging the victim to lodge a formal complaint and to take a legal recourse.

India’s #MeToo movement has been acknowledged with mixed feelings and attitude by the society at large. Along with agreeing and disagreeing with the movement, there prevails a general misconception and misinformation (via memes and trolls) about the movement. However, the movement led to the discussion about workplace ethics, women safety, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and victim shaming. #MeToo movement primarily addresses the issue of victim shaming and further stands in solidarity with the victims; as being vocal about their ordeals is the first step towards bringing in the much-needed change. Furthermore, #MeToo movement acts through a collective responsibility of the victims to stand for their own story and also for the stories of others. It is the responsibility to break the silence, as it isolates the victim and protects the accused. The above two cases of Vikas Bahl and Varun Grover, where the victim doesn’t take the legal recourse acts like a backlash to the progress of the movement, as bringing the movement into action could serve the purpose of the movement. The backlash to the movement by lack of legal action could lead to perceptions that the allegations are false, and/or the allegations are made to take a personal revenge, and/or can also be considered as an act of publicity.

As by and large, #MeToo movement is not just to humiliate, name and shame the accused but also to fight for justice and ensure a fair trial for both the parties involved. In case of the absence of any legal action, the accused would miss his chance to present his case and this might result in negative repercussions to the personal and professional life of the accused. Not taking a legal action may result in doubting all the stories shared by the victims and the credibility of the movement itself. On the other hand, it may give impunity to the accused with regards to legal inaction. Additionally, this results in a state of confusion and inaction for the judiciary and the society for taking stands. The inaction of the victim would result in no change and any tangible and visible result; and also the right of the accused of fair trials.

In conclusion, for any movement to bring about a change, it is essential that our actions support our fight for justice and equality. As action will make sure that the #MeToo wouldn’t just be known as a social media trend but would be seen as a movement for justice and equality.

References:


Grover, V. (2018). #MeToo: An Open Letter By Varun Grover To Find Some Closure. News Laundry. Retrieved from: https://www.newslaundry.com/2018/10/16/varun-grover-open-letter-metoo


Indian Express (2018). Complainant against Vikas Bahl won’t approach police, says no faith in machinery. Indian Express.Retrieved from: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/complainant-against-vikas-bahl-wont-approach-police-says-no-faith-in-machinery-5415220/


Image Credit: Tracechurch.com

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Written By Dhanashree Gurudu

She is a M.A Regulatory Governance post-graduate from Tata Istitute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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