Me Too

The #MeToo wave hits India

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The campaign gained popularity much later but it had actually started a decade ago. Tarana Burke, an activist from Harlem, launched this movement to aid underprivileged women of color affected by sexual abuse. She was inspired after bonding with a young girl during a youth camp hosted by Just Be Inc., a nonprofit she founded that’s “focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of young women of color,” the site reads.

Burke detailed the encounter on the site. She said the girl revealed her mother’s boyfriend had been abusing her. That’s when Burke decided to take action by helping the communities where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers were not present, and “Me Too” was born.

The two-word phrase resurfaced in October when actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to invite those who have experienced sexual harassment to respond with “Me too”. Within hours #MeToo went viral on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and beyond as people took to the platforms to share their personal accounts of sexual assault.

#MeToo in India

After a year of fits and starts, India’s #MeToo movement has leapt forward over the past week, getting concrete action in two of the country’s most powerful industries: entertainment and the news media.

Phantom Films, a major Bollywood production house that made “Sacred Games” for Netflix, was suddenly dissolved on Saturday, with two of four partners publicly apologizing for mishandling an employee’s complaint that she was sexually assaulted in 2015 by a third partner, Vikas Bahl.

One of the country’s premier comedy collective, AIB, edged to the brink of collapse with accusations by a comedian, Mahima Kukreja, that a former member of the group had sent her lewd messages and a picture of his genitals. After other women chimed in, the accused comic, Utsav Chakraborty, apologized, and the company’s co-founders were forced to step away.

The Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta filed a new complaint with the police, reviving her 10-year-old case against a prominent actor, Nana Patekar, for allegedly ordering changes to a movie dance sequence so he could grope her.

Inspired by Ms. Dutta and Ms. Kukreja, as well as by the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in the United States, dozens of women in journalism began coming forward on Friday, describing a range of inappropriate behavior by male reporters and editors at some of India’s biggest news organizations. By Monday afternoon, the influential political editor of The Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, had been stripped of his management role as the company investigated a former reporter’s complaint that he had sexually harassed her. On the same day, seven women sent a letter to The Times of India, the flagship paper of the country’s most powerful media company, accusing a top editor of years of unwanted touching, explicit messages and sexual propositions. The editor, K. R. Sreenivas, was put on leave amid promises of “a speedy and fair inquiry.”

Other journalists are under investigation by their employers or have apologized for inappropriate behavior, and #MeToo accusations have begun spreading to other industries, including advertising and politics. At least four women have accused a government minister for external affairs, the former newspaper editor M. J. Akbar, of sexually harassing them when he was a journalist. Mr. Akbar was traveling overseas on Tuesday and has not made any comment about the allegations.

On Monday, the Bollywood writer and producer Vinta Nanda posted a searing account on Facebook accusing a prominent actor, whom she later identified as Alok Nath, of raping her in her home in the 1990s. Mr. Nath — best known for playing father figures, much as Bill Cosby did in the United States.

The #MeToo movement’s impact in India has also been comparatively modest. In the United States, for instance, complaints about sexual harassment and assault have led to a prison sentence for Mr. Cosby, criminal charges against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and changes in both laws and corporate practices.

INIATIVES TAKEN IN THE PAST

The earliest campaigns – the 2003 Blank Noise Project against eve-teasing, the 2009 Pink Chaddi (underwear) movement against moral policing and the 2011 SlutWalk protest against victim-blaming – were limited in their scope but set the tone for this new mode of protest. Campaigns such the 2011 Why Loiter project on women’s right to public spaces, the 2015 Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) movement against sexist curfew rules in student halls and the 2017 Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom without Fear) March resonated with a much larger number of women, turning this social media-led phenomenon into a true feminist movement.

These online campaigns represented a heightened level of frustration among the youth in a country where, despite several decades of feminist activism, the deep-rooted problem of gender inequality and sexual violence persists.

Now that the battle cry has been launched on a much larger scale and so many women coming together, the only way out is forward.

By-
Sagarika Mishra
Student Reporter -INBA

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