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#MeToo: From campaign to challenge!
#MeToo is a challenge to attitude of silence against sexual harassment. A campaign against sexual assault and harassment at work places called #Metoo that has currently swept India, has come up as a challenge to the prevalent attitude that forces those women to keep silence who had been victims of sexual advances by their male bosses and seniors.

The campaign is gaining widespread support in the social networks as it involves well known editors, a minister and actors from bollywood. They were publicly accused of outraging the modesty of their co-workers at work places.

At the same time #Metoo movement has also knowingly or unknowingly gave birth to an anti-male campaign that help paint all men as sexual predators knowing that such decade old complaints of sexual harassment have no legal bearing and cannot stand in the court of law as law says any complaint of sexual harassment could only be lodged within the three years of the incident.

Another problem is that the campaign is based only on social media networking that lack evidences, which have to be produced before the court at the time of trial. If the cases of sexual harassment currently occupying space on the social networks are taken up by the court it would further complicate the matter particularly for victims because in that case it would be she who will have to prove that incident of sexual assault did take place.

Besides, it seems the debate on the campaign would at the end of the day be confined to a debate or discussion and cannot be a tool to make necessary amendments in the law to deal with such incidents.

With more and more working women joining the campaign, a public conversation has in fact begun in the social networks about the entire gamut of transgressions by men that has been happening because of cultural and social acceptance of male chauvinism in the society.

The debate began recently when a lady journalist tweeted about an event of sexual harassment she had to undergo when she was called for a job interview by a top editor of a leading English daily at a five star hotel some years back. Another tweet by an actress, has accused a Hindi movie and television actor who earns an image of a most sophisticated and religious man, of sexual advances.  So far a total of seven women journalists and two filmmakers who had worked with Akbar have joined the campaign.

The same actor was also accused of rape by one of his producer and writer. The debate gained moment after many working women joined the campaign by tweeting their individual stories of trauma, embarrassment, fear and helplessness in the face of male power and unstated patriarchal prominence that forces women not to resist. Another famous Hindi movie actor Nana Patekar has also been named for sexual assault by one of his female colleague Tanushree Dutta.

The government at the centre of which MJ Akbar, the former editor and accused of sexual harassment is a minister, has not even responded to the charges leave aside taking any action. Similarly, barring few male actors none of top film and television actors have come forward in support of their female colleagues. However, a lady minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi government openly supported the #MeToo campaign and demanded action against those who were held responsible for sexual harassment even if the incidents took place 10-15 years back.

"I am very happy that #MeToo campaign has started in India and encouraged women to come forward to complain against sexual harassment. The anger at molestation and sexual abuse never goes away. We have written to the law ministry that one should be allowed to lodge complaint without any time limit," said Maneka Gandhi, the union minister for women and child development.

India has a provision under section 468 of the criminal procedure code which can lead to a prison term of three years but, has to be reported within three years of incident. Under another provision section 473 of the CrPC, a court may take cognisance of an older case if it is in the "interest of justice" or if the "delay has been properly explained".

The #MeToo campaign has now taken a serious turn with right thinking people and women activists coming out in support of the campaign noting that a large number of women now feel comfortable enough to relate experiences that they thus far to inhibited or apprehensive of recalling.

Among the political class of the country the main opposition Congress party and the CPI (M) are the only two parties that have demanded resignation of Akbar.

The #MeToo campaign is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It went viral in the social networks in October last year as a hash tag used on social media. It is an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment at the workplaces. It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, an Academy award winner and for US film, were levelled.

Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase "Me Too" as early as in 2006, and the phrase was later popularized by a top American actress, on Twitter in 2017. The US actress Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet aboutit and "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem".

However, as the widespread #MeToo campaign is getting louder on social network sites, a backlash has also seen in the same media networking arguing what kind of institutional set up such campaign seeks to put in place and what is the accountability for naming any one by anyone. A law maker of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party Udit Raj has gone far in support of Akbar saying that women are indulging in extortion and taking money to spoil reputations.

"The #Metoo campaign is necessary, but what is the point in accusing someone of sexual harassment after 10 years? After years, how will it be possible to verify facts of the events? It must also be considered that it can ruin the public image of accused person. It is the beginning of a wrong practice," Udit Raj tweeted.

India does have a few institutional processes put in place like Vishakha guidelines to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces and affected amendments in the law concerning sexual crimes accordingly. However, the fact remain that despite having such institutional processes, the culture of male entitlement is so prevalent in the society that most of the victims of sexual harassment and crimes opt to keep silent fearing career risks and other hardships.

The female colleagues in the union cabinet seem feeling uncomfortable and have also started mounting pressure on the Prime Minister Modi to take action against Akbar. After the women and child minister Maneka Gandhi it was the turn of minister of textile Smriti Irani who asked for an action.

"The people in question should respond to the allegations levelled against them," Irani told reporters on the sidelines of a government function.

As the #MeToo campaign knocked at India's door step some intellectuals argued that unlike western world it would be difficult to take #Metoo campaign against sexual assault to its logical end because majority of the Indian society remains mired in the male dominated mindsets.

The women activists who have been fighting for women causes are hopeful that the #MeToo movement does not die down, and succeed in brining all those to book who believe that they could easily get away with anything by virtue of being in the power.

So far the grand success of the #MeToo movement has proved all those wrong who claimed that it would not be successful in the sub-continent including India because there are leaks in the system that help rich and powerful people to get away with crimes. The #MeToo campaign landed in India almost after a year and was received with resounding thud.

Its success in India is evident from the fact that last week has witnessed a flurry of accusations flashed in the social media network. The indulgence of a top-notch Indian editor and currently a minister in the Modi government in the crimes of sexual harassment against his male colleague has become a rallying point for the opposition as it has become a fodder for them to put the government on the dock.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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