The ‘Me Too’ movement (or #MeToo movement) is a movement against sexual harassment, which has lately gathered momentum in India. Tarana Burke, an American social activist, began using the phrase in 2006. American actress Alyssa Milano later popularised the phrase in 2017 on Twitter. #MeToo became viral in October 2017 as a hashtag movement in social media to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
#Metoo Movement in India
The #MeToo movement sparked off in India when actress Tanusree Dutta in an interview to Zoom TV accused Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on the sets of the 2009 film Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss. Tanusree Dutta’s accusations have led to many women coming out in the open and sharing their stories in India.
On October 4, 2018, a young Indian writer named Mahima Kukreja tweeted that a popular Mumbai-based comedian, Utsav Chakraborty, had once sent her an unsolicited, sexually explicit photograph. By the time Chakraborty apologised, scores of Indian women, many of them journalists, had taken to Twitter to detail their experiences of sexual harassment and violation at the hands of senior figures in the media and entertainment industries.
Director Sajid Khan too was accused of similar allegations by multiple women including actress Bipasha Basu who worked with him in the film Humshakals. She accused him of passing lewd comments on the sets of that film.
The #MeToo movement in India has been slow to build up but has now taken the country’s social media by storm.
The movement has shaken the Indian media and film industry. However, the movement is now equally present in other sectors. Pallavi Gogoi, former editor, The Asian Age, accused M.J. Akbar the then Minister of State for External Affairs of raping her when she was working with The Asian Age as a 23-year-old. In her account to The Washington Post, Gogoi wrote about her painful memories. The journalist-turned politician had to quit as a union minister after over 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct. However, regarding Gogoi’s charges, M.J. Akbar has stated that they were in a “consensual relationship.”
Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, has reportedly told the media that she is happy that the #MeToo Movement has expanded to be a movement against sexual harassment and assault in India. In an interview, Gandhi said that victims of molestation never forget their attackers and their anger “never goes away.” She said, “We have written to the Law Ministry, saying that the complaints should be without any time limit. The point is, if you are going to complain, the avenue is still open.”
Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has come forward to lend her support to the women speaking up against sexual assault. She also pledged to help women find their voice, strength and confidence to share their stories.
Battle far from over
In spite of so many women speaking about their sexual exploitation under the aegis of the #MeToo movement, it remains doubtful that these revelations will have the desired impact. Raya Sarkar, who has compiled a list of sexual offenders in academics, has been decried by many for not following the due process. And, like many in the U.S who fear that #MeToo has become a movement for the privileged few, many Indians reject this online feminine movement for being too elitist in a country where only a quarter of its population has access to the internet.
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