There was relative silence in India when the #MeToo movement hit the Western countries hard after American film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by several women about a year ago. It’s not that the viral social media campaigns against sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace, didn’t reach the subcontinent. It did, and a few people even opened up about the traumatic ordeal they have had in the hands of sexual predators. But it failed to make an impact big enough to embolden those who had been living with fear, pain, and shame and anger for years to speak up. But the long silence has been broken now with more and more women joining the conversation in the past couple of weeks by sharing their traumatic stories on social media, something that many powerful men may have thought would not happen. The movement has now provided voice to the voiceless, giving the once helpless victims to take on the mighty without fear. It is now clear: women irrespective of their profession—entertainment, corporate world, or the media—have suffered sexual harassment at work places. The media, which is supposed to fight for the rights of individuals (women) and to create awareness about social issues, is also gripped by the movement after women journalists spoke about bad experiences with their superiors in work places. The magnitude of the movement shows that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which seeks to protect women from sexual harassment in workplaces, might not be as helpful as expected, suggesting that the law can be expanded.
Some may ask why the victims, including the educated, took that many years to reveal the pain they have had to go through; why they did not complain when the incident happened then. Well, years may have passed but traumatic experiences like sexual harassment can remain fresh in the minds of victims. Speaking out after silently suffering alone for long may at least give them some relief and make them feel empowered again. And they have every right to speak against sexual predators. After all, any time is good and appropriate to reveal social evils. Choosing instant gratification by shaming men on social media rather than taking the course of legal action can be a matter of worry for both sides because one can’t rule out cases of false allegations too. However, that doesn’t take away the merit of the #MeToo movement, which has given courage to women to speak about their ordeal despite that it might cost them their career, or harm reputation, and even attract social stigma especially in a conservative country like ours. Many women are now comfortable talking about their suffering and trauma in public, which is needed to build a just society. The new-found courage will at least knock male entitlement out of the heads of some evil-minded individuals.