A year ago, in a television interview, actor Tanushree Dutta reiterated an allegation she had first made in 2008 against well-known actor Nana Patekar. After almost a decade, she accused him again of touching her inappropriately while practicing for a dance sequence on the sets of Horn Ok Please.
According to Tanushree, she had raised her voice in 2008 as well, however, thanks to the #MeToo campaign that began in the United States the previous year, women were speaking out on social media platforms and calling out powerful men. Dutta’s story, in many ways, opened the floodgates of #MeToo in India.
NewsX recently conducted a Roundtable with eminent people associated with the law and the subject, wherein both sides expressed their concerns as well as workable solutions for the actual problem to be addressed.
Kaveree Bamzai, Author and Columnist, was unhappy that India has not yet seen a full fledged #MeToo Movement. She opened the debate by saying,
We still have not got our Harvey Weinstein moment. Tanushree has not got justice yet. It is absurd, when people call women publicity hungry, who come out in the open alleging charges against their perpetrators. The bar for women to come forward is still very high.
Sanjay Hegde, Senior Lawyer, says demanding burden of proof is not about brotherhood, but pure fairness. Explaining his viewpoint in a fairly balanced way, Hegde says,
It is true that women don’t level unnecessary allegations, but the moment the man is charged on a social media platform, you can’t ask him to shut up. Once the allegations come up, you should have a fair process. A due process should not involve public shaming of the accused. Mikes are thrusted in the man’s face and public makes up their mind immediately.
The women in these men’s life too come out the strongest. It then becomes a battle of one woman (wife) against the group of other women protestors. We need an in-camera process which both sides have faith in. There needs to be a discreet post-box like system and only when some substantial amount of information is found to be valid, the case should proceed further. Fear of mob justice should end.
Advocate Aparna Mittal, Founder, Gender Equality Consultancy, Samana calls for maintaining Dignity of both parties. She says,
People must trust the committee in their organisations which will complete a fair and timely enquiry. In places like the movies, the accused does not particularly work for a key employer so it can get complicated. If the systems are not implemented properly, women will put up their comments through whichever forum that is available.
Amit Lakhani, President, Mens Welfare Trust, intervenes saying #MeToo movement was never about Justice, it was about naming shaming a person. He argues,
Most of them never approached a police station and more than 200 people were sacked from jobs after a digital lynch mob system. There is a due trial process and you cannot “socially” convict a person.
There were so many cases which were proven to be false. Vikas Bahl (director) was thrown out of his own film, and credits were restored later after no evidence was found against him. Does a man have an equal and fair law if he is in the same situation that a woman would find herself in?
Hegde also admits that the other side of the consequences is, employers today don’t want to hire young women. While the real predators know how to still get their way, the genuine volatile men don’t allow individual women in their cabins or ensure that there are CCTVs all around. While the senior lawyer points out that harassment of men may only happen in select space such as Bollywood, or in a hairdressers industry, Lakhani counters it by sharing the Genpact Suicide Case where the male employee who worked for the company for 12-years was not allowed to enter his office after being accused. This is when he returned home and committed suicide.
WATCH ENTIRE DEBATE BELOW –
Citing several nameless accounts shaming men, in a unique verdict, Delhi High Court ordered Facebook to reveal the identities behind the anonymous account, “Scene and Herd.” This Instagram profile, with over 5,000 followers and at least 70 testimonials from survivors, started last year as a platform for women to anonymously share their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, specifically in India’s art industry.
A name that pops up multiple times in these testimonials is Subodh Gupta, a popular Indian artist. Some testimonial posts describe how he tried to touch women without consent, and another stated how the artist asked a woman to pose naked for him, even after being “clearly refused every time.”
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As a men’s rights portal, we do not deny at all, that women are indeed harassed at workplace, especially by men who happen to be in position of authority or power. However, we strongly advocate a Gender Neutral outrage and a legal system which can give a fair hearing to both women as well as the men. Without defending the accused, one must also realise that there can be case of vengeance, which may also pop up after years and it may not be fair to punish a man or put his life and career to task just because the society’s outlook is highly biased towards the male gender as the ultimate perpetrators of sexual harassment.
We also propose that there should be some kind of deterrence for any gender who is falsely naming the accused without the fear of law, just because someone found it easy to settle a score. If #MeToo included Men on the same platform as victims, there was no need of a separate #MenToo Movement.
Every victim of sexual harassment deserves justice, but the respect and dignity of a man who is falsely accused is almost never returned.