By Manavi Nag
One of the biggest movements this year is the #MeToo movement. The movement is widely known and has gained a lot of media attention. However, this only seemed like a revolutionary movement in the Western world (of course with the exception of a few countries). It is a movement and a hashtag against sexual harassment and assault. It was started in 2017 after eminent producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by seventy women. While reading through some gut-wrenching stories of some women’s struggles in Hollywood last year the question came upon me; why hasn’t the #MeToo movement hit India? Why aren’t our Indian women coming out about their struggles with sexual misconduct? Could there really be nothing that these men and women have to say about the topic in their personal careers? Well, my question has been answered and in a way that is triumphant for all people, both men and women who have gone through such an ordeal.
But there is still reluctance by victims to bring to light their experiences as it is an issue which is often shoved under the rug, whilst remaining the elephant in the room.
In India, males are both more prevalent and often more valued than females. There are many contributing factors like unbalanced sex ratios, due to selective abortion, and dowry. We are in 2018 and have come such a long way since even a decade ago. It’s fair to say that Mumbai is gradually becoming more accepting and has always been a cosmopolitan city. But being sexually harassed, facing rape and sexual misconduct has not always been a main talking point. No doubt there is greater support for victims of sexual misconduct. But there is still reluctance by victims to bring to light their experiences as it is an issue which is often shoved under the rug, whilst remaining the elephant in the room. I want Mumbai to be a place in which women and men can come out with their struggles easily, without having to face any backlash, condescending words, faces of utter disgust, and in some cases being disowned.
What would it feel like being a well-known star at the peak of your career and on the set of one of your films, where you were touched inappropriately and told to do something that made you highly uncomfortable, by a veteran and experienced actor. What would you do? Well when Tanushree Dutta, who was a Bollywood actress and Ms India Universe in 2004, was touched inappropriately while filming a song, it made her extremely uncomfortable. She was touched by her co-star Nana Patekar and left the movie as a whole. Back in 2008 when this all happened. Dutta was labelled as a drama queen. After this, she rejected most films and only starred in a few more films. She explained to BBC Newsbeat that “I was also afraid that something like this might happen again and if I speak up again I will be then labelled a problematic person,”. After the interview, many celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar tweeted their support out. Consequently, the #MeToo movement was finally brought to light in India.
There is much speculation as to how the movement started in India but some say it was when Priya Ramani wrote about her disturbing story about how she was sexually harassed by a well-known figure, who was an editor but never came out with the name. A year later, Ramani came out and said that it was MJ Akbar, previously an editor, but now is in the BJP as minister of state for external affairs. In the coming week, a countless amount of women came out and explained absolutely disgusting things that had been done to them by MJ Akbar. After this five more women came out with allegations against him. Furthermore, he filed a defamation case against only Ramani stating that it was “a figment of imagination”. The results of this case are yet to be found out. MJ Akbar has stepped down from his role in BJP.
Although Akbar was one of the more senior people accused of sexual misconduct, Vikas Bhal, Chetan Bhagat, Alok Nath and Sajid Khan are a few others to be accused. #MeToo has created a new noise in the minds of Indians and bought a new mindset to both genders about #MeToo.
#MeToo took so long to come to India because of the fact that there is a lot of social stigma and prejudice surrounding the area of sexual misconduct. I am so happy that common Indian people are now aware of the repercussions that come with such actions. I hope that the social stigma surrounding sexual harassment is soon removed and the youth of our country are told that it is not a taboo to be a victim of sexual misconduct, at any age.