FWith the news of Alok Nath, rape accused, playing the role of a judge in a movie on sexual harassment, the Me Too movement is hitting the headlines once again. We need to guard and carry forward the movement so that the victims get a voice to be heard. At the same time, misuse of the movement should not be allowed, as it tarnishes the sanctity of the same.
While the movement focuses mostly on sexual exploitation of women celebrities, there have been various forms of oppression of a female in all strata of the society, which often go unnoticed and unstated.
Right from the childhood, a girl senses the eyes of hungry predators all around her. Most of the cases of sexual harassment of young girls are from their own relations, neighbors or family friends on whom the family has immense faith. For young girls they could be much elder, the age of their father or even grandfather which questions their trust on all boys and men. While the nation discusses empowerment of women, these young girls in small towns or villages face a credibility deficit and are blamed for every crime of their predators making the latter comfortably get away with their heinous crimes. It is each day’s ordeal: the teacher in the school, the private tutor or the eve teasing on their way, be it a walk, local bus, train or a queue. Girls are being judged not only on the clothes they wear, but on each and every movement .These girls are treated by such men as merely bodies that can be used for fulfilling their lust. Several incidents do not even come out of the four walls. To protect themselves from men trying to force their sexual will and the evil eyes all around is an everyday challenge for these young females.
Through such odds, when a girl grows up and gets married off, which is greatly celebrated in the family , little does she know that she is moving for another form of exploitation and oppression among a new set of people. If you want to see the gravity of the torture, please visit the casualty department of a burn wing of a hospital. Their charred bodies will tell you much more than you can endure. Do visit a psychiatry department and you will know the ordeal of even the most qualified and educated married ladies, mentally harassed by her in-laws and her husband. Several non-working homemakers get threatened with a divorce for everything that the husband finds unpleasant in her including an increase in the size of her body. Even those who appear and pretend to be happily married, face the plight of a patriarch system, a power struggle, every moment in the family, many of them begging even for the household expense from a decently earning and a so -called educated husband.
A very pertinent question here is,” Is exploitation of females done only by males”? We need to recall the cases of dowry deaths, their torture by their mothers in law and several girls being forcibly pushed into the flesh trade by women to get an answer.
Those who protest, risk another rape, sexual assault or acid attack. The headline on December 3, 2018 –“On her way to police station, UP woman set ablaze by harassers” describes the plight of such protesters. The shame is more attached to the victim rather than to the predator. Apart from the mental trauma that the victim undergoes, it is very difficult to find a witness in such cases and hence to prove the same.
At a workplace, when a lady is young and still trying to find a place in this world, she may find it too difficult to come out and speak against it. The only way out for her could be to just move out of such an environment where her dignity is at stake. This may spoil her career whereas if she speaks up and then moves to some other organization, she again might be spoiling her career by being treated as a troublemaker.
As Ms Alka Kurien, senior lecturer at the University of Washington, says in her interview to the Times Of India –Noida/Ghaziabad edition published on 28th October, 2018, ” What worse is the patriarchal backlash that takes the shape of threats of life, job loss, loss of face and social orchestration ”.
The fear of misuse of the movement by ambitious females cannot be denied. The image of some innocent male counterparts may get tarnished due to false allegations by some females. Care needs to be taken on these counts.
It is high time; we come out with some concrete solution of the issue. We have our legal system in support of women. The recent decisions of the Supreme Court on privacy, triple talaq and adultery are a welcome step in this direction. Nonetheless laws without a socio- cultural revolution cannot bring about the required change. Education starts at home. We, as parents need to discuss these realities with our daughters freely, by letting them know that it is all right to share with at least the people you trust rather than be scared and confused on your own , if such a case happens. . We also need to make our daughters strong and give them the faith of unconditional support of their parents. The need of the hour is a decent upbringing of our sons. The true definition of masculinity needs to be laid and explained. With the increase in the cases of juvenile crimes, boys need to be educated at a quite early age to respect females and to understand the true meaning of consent. Boys should know that a sister, girlfriend or a wife is not a possession or a property but an identity in itself, an individual who has her own opinion, likes, dislikes and thought process and hence should take her own independent decisions in life. Respect for women need to be taught in educational institutions as well. A well designed curriculum that sensitizes students towards the same is needed. Porn sites should be strictly regulated and controlled.
Movies play an important role in shaping the minds of the youth The Screen Writers Association (SWA) hosted a gender sensitisation workshop recently. Mr. Bikaas Ranjan Mishra, writer, director and chairperson of the media subcommittee of SWA, said, “ the idea is to sensitize the writers so as not to perpetuate gender stereotyping in scripts”. (Page Number 6, Noida Times, the Times of India, 16th November, 2018, ). The SWA is rightly of the opinion that people can be educated and sensitized on gender issues through movies like Pink which very well explains the true meaning of , “No means no”.
The movement will definitely encourage the victims to come out with more of such cases. . This will immediately inculcate some fear in the people who do not respect women and who keep looking for an opportunity to outrage their modesty. Help it be a true movement instead of a moment, where females irrespective of the social strata and region, be it a menial labor from the remotest village or a showbiz celebrity come out, record , document and share their experiences of harassment without waiting any more. Let us all, irrespective of our gender, join hands together to provide support to them saying, “We Too” are with you.
(This Post is written by our Guest Author, Dr. Mona Sahay, She has completed her MPM from Symbosis, Pune)