No matter how loud women’s voices are, men seem to have it easy with #MeToo.
The #MeToo campaign, which first began as a hashtag on Twitter in 2017 when Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment by over 70 women, had India joining the movement after actor Tanushree Dutta accused veteran Nana Patekar of sexual harassment a year later in September.
This opened a can of worms with many women narrating their experiences on social media. But just as any movement, the #MeToo campaign seems to be dying a slow death too with more and more accused men getting away.
Kathryn Mayorga, who first accused Christiano Ronaldo of assault in 2009, requested the case be reopened 10 years later. Vegas police began investigating but decided to drop the investigation "upon a review of information at this time." Kevin Spacey had been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old in 2016, but prosecutors dropped the charge a few days back.
In India too, the accused are gradually getting a clean chit. The idea of the entire movement was to hold these men accountable for their actions. What should have resulted in legal proceedings or boycott of such individuals instead sees them slowly creeping back into acceptance.
Recently, choreographer turned filmmaker invited several celebrities for lunch and had among her guests the 'Super 30' director Vikas Bahl, who was also recently cleared of sexual assault charges.
Singer Chinmayi, who had boldly come out and spoken against the alleged torment she faced at the hands of the famous lyricist Vairamuthu, says "No matter who is in power, people's attitude towards sexual harassment is indifference. I don't understand how the moral police themselves appear alongside molesters and don't stand with the victim."
"For most people, sexual harassment cases are a trend. The men accused in such cases, even with solid evidence and proof, are invited for social gatherings and garlanded, thereby strengthening the thought process that these accusations are meaningless and temporary. While one does not wish to see an innocent victimised, why is the society unable to understand that it takes a lot for women to come out in the open and share their ordeal?" asks Sano, Radio Jockey.
“My heart breaks at how structures and systems that should stand up for the rights of people at large are failing us tremendously”, says Kirthi Jayakumar, a women's right activist, writer and lawyer. Kirthi Jayakumar started the Red Elephant Foundation and developed the app Saahas for women to complain against abuse.
“Given the pressing need for action to appropriately respond to complaints of workplace sexual harassment, this silence and stonewalling is problematic. When power structures keep complaints from coming to fore, keep systems in place that serve their interests, and do precious little to safeguard workplaces, the danger lies in the apathy towards the issue itself.”
Dr Anita R Ratnam, Performer and Cultural Activist, has been very vocal about women's rights in the performing arts. Speaking to DC she says, “We must call out offenders, sexual predators and alert women who are in danger and vulnerable. Often it is those in powerful positions who are the worst offenders and they hide behind power and position to get away scot free. Naming and shaming is just one step. The woman must then be prepared for a long haul of providing proof and having her private life put out on a public show.”
“In India the men expect the women to give up for the sake of mental peace and fear of negative publicity”, citing why many men get away eventually. “We cannot give up the fight. Women have to come together and work with the law and sensitise families and society. “Any movement to help and support women will take a very long time. It has been centuries of abuse and submission. Do not think that the law and society will suddenly change and give women the justice they deserve. Every single day the fight and resistance has to continue.”
Writer & activist Sandhya Menon, who was among the first to help women call out prominent journalists as repeat sexual harassers, asks in her blog, “How are these men (accused by multiple women of sexual harassment) finding employment as if it were just another change of job? How are employers not concerned enough about women who will work with these men, or even their own reputation?”
Answering the question, “what we must do with the men who have been sacked from work for their crimes?” she says, “It would be criminal to not think of this as a problem of society; we cannot limit it to thinking about it in terms of the individual men we called out. This is a conversation that we as women, feminists, professionals or just human beings, absolutely need to have. Not because we must care for harassers or feel “forgiving” towards them but so that once we have these answers, systems may be put in place that are robust, accessible and transparent. Systems where women, or anyone abused, will get the justice they deserve.”