Me Too Movement

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Context: This October, the MeToo movement in India completes a year. Women from various backgrounds- students, struggling actors, senior journalists- had spoken up against their experiences of sexual harassment in different walks of life.

Relevance: 
Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS II- Role of women and women’s organization.

In the mid and late-1800s, social movements in Europe for equal rights for women threw up the word ‘feminism’, which traces its origins to French. The suffrage movement in Britain in the early part of the 20th century was another component of women’s fight for equality across the world.

Over the years, this fight has gained momentum, often with varying goals depending on the cultural traditions and the degree of prevalence of patriarchy in different societies. Various instances have inspired women to collectively get together and assert their rights- to create a combined voice that strongly advocates the impending need to view them as equal to men.

Me Too Movement in India:

  • The Me Too movement in India is a manifestation of the international Me Too movement that occurred in late 2018 (in effect to present-day) in parts of Indian society including government, media, and the Bollywood film industry.
  • In India, the Me Too movement is seen as either an independent outgrowth influenced by the international campaign against sexual harassment of women in the workplace or an offshoot of the American “Me Too” social movement.
  • Me Too began gaining prominence in India with the increasing popularity of the international movement, and later gathered sharp momentum in October 2018 in the entertainment industry of Bollywood, centered in Mumbai, when actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment.
  • What followed was a series of posts by other women who shared their experiences with the world.
    • From actors, film directors to advertising top guns, artists and writers and politicians, women professionals called out obnoxious behavior at the workplace.
    • From unwanted attention in the office to sexual innuendos on the film set, there were many kinds of allegations that surfaced.

 

MeToo movement has made a huge impact worldwide and it will go down in history as one of the important events in the struggle for women empowerment. The movement gave voice to many women and called out many sexual abusers. From Hollywood to Tamil cinema, the story holds true.

However, there are several ongoing debates on the credibility of the #MeToo movement. In addition to that, many critics of the movement have claimed that it has been watered down and has lost its impact. 


Challenges of the Movement:

  • India's Me Too movement differs in key ways from the movement in the United States. The allegations against a renowned celebrity were investigated by reliable sources in the US, while in India, accusations emerged on social media, where women posted their grievances.
  • In addition, laws against defamation in India allow the prosecution of women who are unable to prove their allegations, with a maximum jail term of two years, while the First Amendment protects such rights in the United States.
    • As a result, activists began to work towards strengthening the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was implemented poorly since its establishment.
  • The movement has been slowing down in India, due to various false allegations/statements and the failure of authorities to hold the eminent men accountable for sexual harassment. 
  • Only prominent and elite women participated in sharing their stories on social media, the movement has been unsuccessful in noting the stories of common women.
  • There has been a backlash on social media in some cases when a victim has come out to share her experience. 
  • There are also concerns about the impact on the accused since there is a lot of media attention on the cases.


Way forward:

  • Where men have always largely been seen as the perpetrators of sexual discrimination and violence, there will always be cases of aberration where the man becomes the victim of sexual misconduct or politics. These cases must also be taken under the purview of the movement.
  • Consequently, the movement must be ethical and humanitarian in its scope and objectives rather than a display of vulgar chauvinism or a settling of scores.
    • Violence against one’s body must be understood as a universal act of discrimination.
    • It must be treated as violence against humanity rather than as violence against any one gender.
  • The movement might have begun with gendered motives, but it should not be restricted to a gendered battle alone. The humanitarian intervention which has been sparked off by the MeToo movement must not denigrate into a vindictive power play.
  • For #MeToo to retain its moral clarity, it is important that we now look at ways to strengthen the processes at workplaces and the legal framework in general, so that cases of sexual harassment are speedily settled, and not left to a ‘she-said-he-said’ aftermath that extends the trauma of the innocent women and, sometimes, the men concerned.


Conclusion:

With every newfound dynamic of power comes the immense responsibility to use it carefully. Any movement contains the potential danger of becoming a grand narrative and becoming too essentialist in its objectives and struggles. This must be avoided at all costs. There is always a minority section of people of the other gender/s who are excluded from the ambit of a grand narrative or movement. The movement must not progress at the cost of sweeping universalisms. It must remind itself of the dangers of falling prey to dogmatic worldviews.



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