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5 Reasons I Believe Tanushree Dutta’s Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Nana Patekar

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It was riveting to watch Brett Kavanaugh scream and accuse the Democrats while he was being questioned (not interrogated) for the sexual assault allegations against him on Thursday.

Despite the fact that the Republican senators continued to deny a proper FBI investigation into the claims, it was moving to see that at least someone with a reputation as him is being questioned and held accountable for something he allegedly did.

One might say I am aiming for just the crumbs, but from the perspective of an Indian woman, even this public hearing seems like a part of victory or a victorious beginning. Simply because in India, we barely ever see someone as powerful and privileged being questioned, let alone being convicted.

Yes, we had few pretentious ‘god-men’ or babas like Asaram or Gurmeet Insan face that but an actor, a judge, a minister – almost unheard of despite the claims.

Hollywood takes credit, and deservedly so, for playing a crucial role in the #MeToo movement by knocking down giants like Bill Cosby and Weinstein. Yet, Bollywood has no such accomplishments when it comes to sexual assault cases.

Actress Tanushree Dutta had accused Nana Patekar of sexual misconduct back in 2008, which I never saw or heard from any mainstream news channels. In the last few days, her story has gotten momentum after an interview about the #MeToo movement in Bollywood.

 

Despite holding Nana Patekar in high esteem up until now, I believe Tanushree and here are 5 reasons why I do:

  1. The ‘Good-Guy’ Image Of Men

It is the exact same narrative. Ditto. Word for word. He is a ‘good guy’. He is so respectable and has won awards.

Look at the ‘ache admi’ comment. As if a person’s ability to rape or not rape is like the ability to drive a car. Who decides who is ‘ache admi’ and why don’t people get that one person can be humble and kind to many while being an absolute monster to few?

The monster does not reveal its face to the whole world at one time but only to one or few. Don’t ask the 9 million people he has worked with or been around who he has been great with. Because those don’t matter. Ask only the one he has hurt.

Imagine this. You go to a famous restaurant and order their famous dish. It had a cockroach and you get food poisoning.

Now you want to sue or complain against the restaurant. Should the court invite the countless people who ate at the same restaurant and didn’t get food poisoning? And no matter how many people testify, would it change the fact that you got sick by eating their food?

2. The Character Assassination Of The Victim

In the comment above, look how this gentleman is pointing out at the ‘kind of movies’ Tanushree has done. Clearly indicating that if an actress has exposed her body or done some raunchy songs then she is a slut and has no right to complain or consent. She is garbage already and has no credibility. Of all the comments out there, this is the most common narrative and I want to settle this once and for all here:

Even if a woman is a prostitute selling her body on the street or your wife of 20 years, YOU STILL NEED CONSENT TO TOUCH HER! And without her consent, you become a rapist, even if you are her husband of 20 years and even if she is a prostitute. Just because someone sells something, does not mean she wants to sell it to you.

3. The Harassment Of The Victim By The System

There are others questioning ‘WHY DIDN’T SHE REPORT EARLIER’. Well, she did. At that very moment and was rescued by the police. She got the cops involved, reached out to the producers and also the  Cine and Television Artistes Association, yet nothing helped. She, in fact, was victimized by the system since Nana Patekar got the MNS goons involved. Her entire career ended while Nana and others involved still flourish and succeed. This is what the question in the title of this article is about.

Despite the fact that Tanushree gave up on the case thanks to the harassment by the system, if the police have clear conscience, they better come up with their defense and re-open the investigation and hold Nana accountable for his actions. But we all know, that’s never going to happen in India.

4. The Blind Bias Of The Blind Fan Following

We have seen this before in case of Salman Khan; both in case of his driving charges and abusing Aishwarya.

The large fan following is so completely blinded by the charm of these actors, they fail to see the human in the man they have now put on a pedestal. They absolutely refuse to see the difference between the hero they saw on the big screen and the man that person is without the cameras present. I personally liked Nana for his acting skills and his outspokenness on social issues and charity. But neither of these are certificates of intent when it comes to what happened between him and a woman.

Fans forget that humans do not exist in a binary. The best of humans have flaws and not everyone in the world knows those flaws. How does one’s talents or skills in their profession make them immune to criminal conduct, I have always failed to understand. Unfortunately, the majority of Indians rely on that bias when it comes to claims against their beloved actors.

5. The End Goal Or The ‘Why’

Having lost her career, her safety, her earnings and bringing a potential life threat upon her, what do you think Tanushree gained by all of this?

First of all look at the language used to address her. And second of all, notice the claim that she is doing all of this for fame. 

Her career has already taken the hit after she was blacklisted, branded unprofessional and shun by the Bollywood industry. When people want fame, they go to Indian Idol or Big Boss, not put themselves in the public eye with an assault story only bring wrath and rape threats of angry men. I have never seen one rape case where the victim was not accused of doing all of this for ‘fame’. Maybe one, Aruna Shaunbaug’s case but only because she was left in a vegetative state for the rest of her life and also because the rapist was not a famous, wealthy, privileged man.

Other than her, any case where the victim is not dead, you will hear the exact same narrative of ‘doing this for fame’.

About 50 women accused Bill Cosby. How many got fame by doing so? How many of their names do you remember? And what did they get if you did remember their names?

Please start believing women when they come forward with sexual assault allegations because the chances of them lying are rare; and letting go rapists and molesters without repercussions is the reason why India is tagged as the world’s most dangerous country for women.

Being a victim myself, I can assure you it is not easy to speak about your ordeal in public. And you get re-traumatized everytime social media trolls pass nasty comments about the most vulnerable and sensitive subject of your life.

What sane person would put themselves in such a position just for the fun of it?

And start by believing the women around you. Whether or not they went to the police, whether or not they spoke up right after the incident, whether or not there was a witness…if you have to give the benefit of doubt to someone, give it to the victim, not to the suspect.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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