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#MeToo Movement Is The Need Of The Hour In Indian Society

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The Hashtag #MeToo is not trending for the first time. Last time when it was trending, women were just using it to make people realize how common harassment is in their lives. This time, MeToo is coming up with testimonies of the survivors of abuse. Many cases have surfaced and many shocking cases are still about to come. Many famous actors, journalists, academicians, politicians, etc. have been accused of harassment and the movement is growing wider day by day.

The question that arises during criticism of MeToo is why so many women are speaking up now? Some of the survivors are speaking up after many years of abuse. What is actually the relevance of MeToo and why it was much needed during the third wave of feminism.

The most common questions raised by critics are:

  1. Why speak up after so many years/ months?
  2. Why not go for the due legal process instead of doing public shaming?
  3. Why so many people are still against MeToo?
  4. Are all the testimonies trustworthy/ true?

There are several factors that prevent a woman from reporting an incident of harassment (these can be considered for survivors of abuse other than women too but in a patriarchy, they face this the most). These include –

1. Victim Blaming – Survivors get blamed for their assault. The society which trains women on how not to get raped or avoid rape starts bashing the abused rather than punishing the abuser. The most common questions asked are – what was she wearing? why was she out so late ? why was she drunk, etc.

2. Intimidation –  More often, the intimidation by the abuser begins just after the abuse. It could range from tarnishing image, killing or harming the survivor or their family members, more harassment, etc.

3. Backlash and slut-shaming – Backlash, slut-shaming, social boycott of the victim or their family is another reason for not speaking up. Many survivors are not believed when they speak up.

4. Not getting justice – The loopholes in the due process are a huge reason for not speaking up.

The first question which is often coming up and is –

Why Is This Coming Up After So Many Years?

The answer is simple and complex at the same time. The survivors go through a lot when they get harassed. Many of them never come up or talk about their harassment even on their death bed. There can be several reasons for coming up right now, including –

Feeling that they might get justice – Some of them are also going to courts and trying to seek justice. They are feeling they are not alone in this which might have not been the case long ago.

If the abuser is now in a powerful position and can harm others – For example, in the U.S, Dr Basley Ford came up with her testimony after many years when Brett Kavanaugh was running for a Supreme Court post because she realized it’s not about her anymore, it was about protecting more women who might go to court to get justice and a harasser will be making judgments. There are plenty of women who choose to remain silent for the sake of their safety but quietly inform people around the abuser for their safety. Many women come up when they realize that their abusers will have the power to abuse many more, in fact, hundreds of women if they choose to remain silent now.

Because they had had enough with the abuse – Many of the victims are coming up after bearing abuse and the aftermath of it for years. They are feeling that people will listen to them, believe them.

Because the aftermath of abuse made them push themselves back – The aftermath of harassment can range from PTSD, depression, anxiety, inability to trust people, if it is done by an intimate partner then it affects future relationships of the victim, and could cause isolation, under performance for years.

The abuser is unknown/ known – The abuser might be a family friend, family member, partner/husband/ boyfriend/girlfriend/wife, a boss, which made them accept it and stay silent for the sake of not ruining relations/ties. Sometimes the abuser is unknown, they assault and leave. If you got harassed at a party, on the street, workplace, etc. and don’t know who the abuser was then they think they cannot even report it.

The second question is of public shaming-

Why Not Go For Due Legal Process Instead Of Public Shaming?

Some victims don’t believe in the due legal process – It is notable that somewhere this disbelief in due process is a failure of a larger movement. They are sure about not getting justice and constantly going through their trauma in the court while being unsure if they will be believed, is a major reason. The entire process might take a couple of years, they might not have the financial resource to pursue a case in the court of law. They want to avoid the constant character assassination.

They feel unsafe – This is one of the most common factors why many victims are public shaming their abusers and many of them haven’t even shared their testimonies. They don’t feel safe. The intimidation by their abusers, followers of their abusers, etc. will be scary enough for them.

Their abusers are powerful – Here comes the class, caste factor. If they know that their abuser is powerful in terms of resources or is of higher class/caste the victims refuse to file cases knowing that filing a case will only lead to more backlash. Be it urban parts or rural ones, women don’t want to make themselves and their family suffer because of speaking up. It is the same thing in villages; for decades, upper caste men have been harassing lower caste women to assert their domination over the entire caste group, and women tend to stay silent as speaking up will only lead to more humiliation. In urban settings, this could be the case in the context of class and reputation that a man has. Many victims like Tanushree Dutta, Dr. Ford are getting trolled, abused daily for speaking up against their abusers. There are plenty of examples from the daily lives of women at the workplace and universities where victims were morally policed and they gave up the complaint.

Why Are So Many People Still Against The #MeToo Movement?

If we start noticing, there is an anti-MeToo narrative running parallel to this movement mainly in right wing circuits. The most common people against me too are Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), right-wingers, conservatives, capitalists because #MeToo harms their power structure. Movements like these put them under the scanner. They are more likely to moral-police women and LGBTQIA+ community as such movements damage their attitude towards everyone. It teaches mostly men to be accountable for their actions which is deterrent to patriarchal structure. The narrative of attention-seeking, fake cases to earn fame are narratives of these groups to push the survivor back, it’s nothing but another way to put ‘women back in their places’.  Harassment over the years is also used to punish women and other people who do not fit into patriarchal ideals. It has been a tool of social structure which came up with zero responsibilities as women refused to speak up or are told to shut up by victim blaming. Again, the parallel narrative is trying to put women back in their places by victim blaming, slut shaming, character assassination and spreading the word that sexual assault allegations ruin careers and reputations of men. The narrative of “reputation of our sons, brothers, fathers” are at stake as any woman can claim harassment under #MeToo; it is a toxic pressure building up to shut survivors by showing men as vulnerable to false cases while labeling all testimonies as fake.

The left wing, however, is in solidarity with the movement while asking survivors to go for due legal process as it’s high time women stay silent about their experiences.

Are All Testimonies Trustworthy/ True?

This is a commonly asked question during debates around #MeToo. Why is it that we need to doubt survivors of abuse? The answers that are often given are that false cases are rising. If you go by legal and government records, false cases are a smaller part while there is a huge list of reported and under-reported cases of harassment. I am not saying we deny false accusations but doubting women coming up and many waiting to come up is not a justified response. It’s 2018, we need to stop prioritizing men over women. We can give these victims a benefit of doubt. There are enough women who got abused and spoke up; we should believe all women instead of scrutinizing and thinking whether they are lying or not.

By the way, what do women get by talking about harassment? A life full of personal attacks and trolling.

#MeToo is now not limited to women, many men and queer people are also sharing their experiences. Our response to #MeToo will only decide whether more survivors want to speak up or not.

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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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