#Metoo: Woman Across the Globe Raising their Voice against Sexual Harassment
Amid the plethora of hashtags and indefinite tweets on Twitter that we see every single minute, it was one tweet by a Hollywood actress that stood out and soon became a rage all over the globe with more and more people talking about it, writing about it and sharing their own experience using the hashtag #metoo. So, what exactly was the message of the tweet that caught the attention of many and why it found so much support among people cutting across the lines of nationality, ethnicity, race etc.? Well, the answer could be an eye-opener for many of us.
The tweet in question was put up by actress Alyssa Milano encouraging women to come out and raise their voice if they went through any horrifying experience of being sexually harassed or assaulted. According to her, the whole idea behind the tweet was to elevate such uncomfortable conversation placing the emphasis on victims rather than the perpetrators and offering a glimpse into the number of women who were victimized and continue to be victimized giving a sense of the magnitude of the problem. She had posted this tweet in the wake of the unfortunate episode of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein being severely accused by dozens of Hollywood leading actresses of sexually harassing, abusing or groping them against their will using his powerful position. The allegations soon snowballed into serious accusations with more and more actresses coming out and sharing their traumatizing experience they had with the disgraced film mogul. Expectedly, the tweet found a favorite among the Indians as well with thousands of women sharing their stories using the hashtag across the likes of social media and we were not surprised, you will soon find out why.
According to a 2016 ActionAid UK report, 73 percent of women in India have experienced some type of harassment or violence in public places. If we include figures of sexual harassment at workplace in the overall picture then the statistics just go off the charts with more than one-third experiencing harassment at workplace thus painting a very grim picture of the sad condition of women in India. While subjugating women to the will of often powerful men or asking them to be silent about their views might be a global issue, yet in our Indian society, it has sort of been institutionalized and made a part of our everyday culture and traditions. So, when many saw their Facebook home feed all painted and filled with #metoo shared by their friends, relatives it must have sent a shock wave to many who must have never ever anticipated the magnitude of the problem. Consider this: If passing around a sexist message on social media, eve-teasing a woman for fun, calling a woman names on social media when she disagrees with your view or repeatedly asking a female co-worker for lunch despite her saying no does not evoke a strong sense of displeasure where it actually ought to as a matter of principle speaks volume of how women are treated and it is a harsh reality that it happens here every single day. So, when women saw this idea floating around they found a space where they could feel vulnerable about their experiences without actually talking about it piece by piece. Faced with an indifferent society, often unsympathetic police and judiciary where many cases go either unreported or delayed, women through the movement are asking men to grasp how wide-spread the problem is.
Though the movement initially started off as a woman-centric movement, it soon grew beyond that including experiences shared by the queers as well as men. In a society where the rigid conventions generally rule the roost and the archaic laws suppress personal freedom, these "non- conforming" groups also found some space to share their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a jilted lover, relatives, bosses etc. through this movement. In all, the movement brought out of us those words which we have been so far avoiding and further gave us a picture of how big the issue at hand is. So, what next? Well, the movement in itself may not be enough to eradicate this huge menace of sexual abuse or sexual harassment yet it at least provided people a breathing space and courage to speak about on a public platform. This pattern of forcibly subjecting women and other vulnerable groups to the demons of patriarchy, sexism, misogyny and conservative mindsets can only change not just with the active involvement of the women but also with the equal participation of men because such issues besides affecting the society at large also derails our otherwise bright future from the tracks of a long-continued process of preserving personal liberty, morality and a sense of justice towards others.
Author: Akshay Arya
College: Faculty of Law, Delhi University
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