The MeToo movement against sexual harassment and work place sexism has arrived in India. The movement started in America last year this month itself when allegations of serial sexual harassment against film producer in Hollywood Harvey Weinstein emerged. The brave account of survivors of harassment by Harvey started a ripple effect and women in different professions spoke up about sexual harassments faced by them. The MeToo moment in America was being keenly observed by women in India as well as across the globe. And today, that moment has begun here. The solidarity that has built up among women has created an enabling atmosphere to challenge patriarchal and unjust power. The Me Too movement is also a reminder that sexism has to be fought everywhere, including the progressive institutions/spaces.
If survivors would not have spoken up we would not have had a judgment such as the Vishakha Judgement of Supreme Court that directed work places to set up autonomous anti-sexual harassment cells. And it was in that backdrop of a strong voice of women’s movement demanded and achieved an institution like the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) in JNU. But in today’s time, when sexual violence and sexism is not only prevalent in the society but also upheld and protected by the party in power, the sole GSCASH in the country has been dismantled. The VC appointed by the current regime has forcibly dismantled GSCASH and got it replaced by a rubber stamp Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The present ICC is only allowed to give decisions in cases of sexual harassment that is approved by the JNU VC. We have witnessed how influential teachers close to the JNU VC and his political clout are being protected and shielded. The ICC has also done away with the responsibility of gender sensitization of the student community. The dismantling of such institutions and their non-existence otherwise have left women with no other option but to come out public.
India today is going through the worst phase for gender justice under the present regime despite BJP’s propaganda in the name of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. It is a time when the party and people in power are shielding perpetrators, their spokespersons and leaders are openly propagating threats against women who are fighting against sexism. And it is now becoming the established norm in institutions and work places as well.
Me Too movement in India has forced Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to give statement on it. Maneka Gandhi has said that “I believe in all of them. I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complainant. I am proposing to set up a committee with senior judicial and legal persons as members to look into all issues emanating from the #MeToo campaign”. Can we take this statement seriously? Not at all! BJP leaders of J&K organized rallies in support of the accused in the brutal rape and murder of 8 year old Bakarwal girl Asifa in Kathua. The accused are defended by BJP leaders by fanning communal hatred. The rape survivor of Unnao has said Me Too. But the accused BJP MLA from Unnao Kuldeep Singh Sengar is still a MLA, while the father of the rape complainant has been killed in custody. The women students of BHU said Me Too in loud and clear voice. They were lathicharged because they dared to speak up. The women’s demand to set up an autonomous GSCASH like institution in BHU is still denied. Students who participated in the movement against sexual harassment have been debarred from taking admission in BHU instead. After the SC court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple has come, the BJP in Kerala has been openly threatening of violence if women enter the temple. Thulasi, who is a BJP member and the party’s candidate from Kundra in Kollam during the 2016 assembly elections has threatened to tear women in two pieces if they try to enter the Sabarimala temple. The BJP Kerala state president PS Sreedharan Pillai has threatened of blood bath if the SC order is implemented. Days after complaints of serial sexual harassments against a Union Minister of Modi Cabinet by several leading women journalists of the country, the Government remains shamelessly apathetic.
Let us take it upon ourselves to ensure that the metoo moment does not fade out without holding institutions accountable for gender justice. Let the survivors not be the only ones bear the entire burden.
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