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#MeToo: The road ahead

This movement aims to unseat the unethical, predatory sex offender from his position of power

#MeToo: The road ahead

There is a storm raging in India. The #MeToo campaign that started last year with encouragement from the US, is shaking the echelons of power in India. In the last week or so, women from varied walks of life have broken their silence on instances of sexual abuse, harassment, assault, and in some worrying cases, even rape and molestation. The perpetrators, mostly men, are people in power who have abused their authority and used their position to hound women like prey. These serial offenders will eventually receive their comeuppance no matter the silence that some of them have chosen as a response. The #MeToo movement is slated to be a major victory for all Indian women should it bring about lasting change in society, work culture and especially, the perception of women being fair game for an influential man's desire.

No, this is not 'us' versus 'them'; it not about man vs woman. There is an instance of a woman comedian calling out another female counterpart for misconduct. I am sure that there could be male victims too. However, given the patriarchal society that we live in and the number of male workers compared to female in certain fields, the number of male perpetrators is unfortunately exhaustingly greater. It is also not about one political party versus another. This is about the safety of citizens, especially women - it is about women empowerment, and it is about walking that talk.

Every day, there are new names tumbling out of the closet, skeleton and all. With the movement gaining momentum, one can only hope that it reaches its logical conclusion. The intent is not to instil fear in the hearts of all men and women, recruiters and employees, or creation of a prudish environment. The aim of this movement is to ensure a safer society where men and women can live and work as equals. And should there be any instance of sexual misconduct or harassment, then the matter is dealt with impartiality, without fear or favour, irrespective of gender. This metamorphosis of India has to happen and if it takes outrage, anger, and emotion, then so be it.

Having said that, a movement as emotive and powerful as #MeToo can be most effective if the cases are genuine. Fake, flimsy cases that cannot distinguish between a 'bad date' or an overly eager suitor, don't make the cut. They can, however, dilute the strength and mass support that this movement has garnered. 'No means no', and no man or woman should be targeted personally or professionally for rejecting sexual overtures. It is also imperative that what happened between consenting adults years ago is not raked up as part of #MeToo due to a grudge. Most importantly, fear should only be in the hearts and minds of serial predators who have, through their habits and patterns, preyed on unwilling women for years. This movement is to unseat those unethical, irresponsible, sexual delinquents from their positions of power. This abuse of power stops here, stops now. Time's up.

Storms rage and then fizzle out. But the #MeToo movement is a significant campaign that can have its place in history. Calling out sexual predators is never easy, reliving those anguishing moments are traumatic. It takes a lot to come out and share to the world about one's personal experience even if it was years ago. Therefore, this entire exercise can amount to nought if no action is taken. If people don't take moral responsibility for their despicable acts, if their political masters and corporate employers turn a blind eye to damning allegations, then the victims should and must consider legal recourse. But the question is how difficult are we going to make it for the victims to seek redressal? Long-drawn legal battles will be yet another nightmare for the victims. Do we want to see them suffer even more? Haven't they suffered enough?

(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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