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India’s #MeToo movement is long overdue

India’s longstanding problem with rape and harassment has come to a head as victims take to social media to demand justice.


Written by

Updated: October 10, 2018

The global MeToo movement which started in the United States and spread throughout the world has met with mixed reactions in Asia, where deeply conservative and patriarchal societies have not embraced the phenomenon as quickly as in the west.

In Japan, China, and Korea, the MeToo movement has garnered support but has failed to reach the viral, all-encompassing scope the west has enjoyed.

India’s MeToo movement failed to take off completely, that is until earlier this month when a young female comedian accused an older comedian of sending lewd pictures to her phone. More allegations followed and before long, India’s patriarchal entertainment industry was alit with allegations.

Writer and producer Vinta Nanda said she was raped almost two decades ago but did not name the assailant in her posting on Facebook, only confirming in later media interviews that he was Alok Nath, a popular actor who has worked in television serials and films.

“I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years,” said Ms Nanda on Facebook.

“I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly,” she wrote.

Asked about the allegation, Mr Nath told an Indian news channel that he “neither denies nor agrees with it”.

“It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it,” he added, according to the Straits Times.

Stories like Ms Nanda’s are all too common as more and more Indian women take to social media to share their experiences.

Some women shared screenshots of conversations in their effort to name and shame their harassers. Female lawyers came forward to offer free services to those opting for legal redress.

A series of tweets last week by journalist Ms Sandhya Menon alleging harassment by senior male colleagues served as the lightning rod for other female journalists.

“Five years ago if this had happened nobody would have believed me. Now there is an outpouring of support in terms of women saying I believe you. Other women are also coming forward,” Ms Menon told The Straits Times.

“I don’t want them to go to prison but I do want them to be held accountable,” she said, referring to her harassers. “I would like an apology and see the way organization they work with take a stand moving forward,” she added.

“What you see online is a fraction of India’s urban elite English-speaking population speaking out. Women who aren’t in urban spaces have to be reached out by state media. They have to do stories and reach out to survivors,” said Ms Rituparna Chatterjee, an independent journalist and a member of the Network of Women in Media group,

For a country where a woman is raped every 15 minutes and the majority of cases go unreported, the movement is nowhere near enough to alter the status quo.

Just this week, 421 people were arrested for attacks on workers after the rape of a one-year-old girl.

Two men were arrested on October 4, after a video showing a woman being raped in the River Ganges went viral.

In September, a principal of a boarding school and four members of staff were arrested for covering up the rape of a 15-year-old pupil.

But while the conversation has long been overdue and may not yet be enough, people like Ms Chatterjee say that the mood has changed.

“There is a lot of hope. Finally, we have hope. Something may come out of it. It is all out in the open.”

 



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About the Author: ANN’s current Chairman is Mr Warren Fernandez, who is also Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times, Singapore. He is the current President of the World Editors Forum.

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