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With #MeToo gaining strength in India, it’s important to understand the basics of Consent. And also, that we can listen to survivors with an open heart, without becoming the judges ourselves.
Consent as a concept is as alien to most people as stopping at red traffic lights is for Indians. When we speak about consent, it means just two things; loud and clear, plain and simple – “No means no” and “Yes means yes.”
The recent #MeToo movement has gained immense momentum across the world. There are women who have come forward with their stories, there are women who have re-visited the horror and the trauma that sexual violence brings with it. There are also women who have finally addressed the elephant in the room and that itself is a step forward.
This movement has given a platform for women and their voices that was missing even in this age and time. The sheer guts of the women who have come forward and spoken the hard truth have made figures like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein crumble and reduced to dust.
As in Hollywood, #MeToo is gaining momentum in India as well. Be it with Tanushree Dutta speaking again Nana Patekar or actresses coming forward with complaints about Rajat Kapoor, Vikas Bahl, or Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat stepping down from their positions in AIB.
Anything that takes place and effects a large number of people is often accompanied by some trends. Out of the many, two trends here are interesting to see:
1. Blaming the complainant and character assassination.
2. Believing the woman just because she is a woman.
To my mind, both these approaches take away the objectivity and the fairness from the case in point.
People are supporting Nana Patekar because he works for the welfare of farmers in Maharashtra, he is a ‘senior’ artist and he is aligned with a particular political party. People in the same breath are shaming Tanushree Dutta by asking if the scenes with Emraan Hashmi were okay, why did she not feel comfortable with Nana touching her?
What people are missing here is ‘Consent’ – the simple fact that a woman might want to be touched or be physically involved as many times as she likes, but when she says No, it’s non-negotiable. This idea is probably beyond comprehension for many. Also, the fact that a woman gave consent previously doesn’t mean she has to give consent every single time. That’s the whole point of coining a concept or a term like ‘consent’ right?
Another thing that people bring up to shame the complainant is, ‘why were they silent for so long?’ Sometimes people don’t realise that the complainants were violated, they must have been scared and sometimes they won’t even have a platform to speak up. So, shaming and rejecting a woman’s claims because of her clothes, choice of partners, number of partners, making-out scenes on-screen and silence is not looking at right or wrong, it’s simply finding ways to justify our own lopsided judgment.
However, coming to believing something because of the gender of the complainant is as detrimental to the case as shaming the complainant because of her life choices. Should an anonymously written statement about a man be enough to cost him his job, respect and work? Can a picture of a man along with a written account of his supposedly ill behaviour be enough to brand a man as a harasser? That is the reason why I feel #BelieveSurvivors is flawed at so many levels.
The more appropriate stand would be to #ListenToTheSurvivors. Everything cannot be brushed under the carpet of sexual harassment, every misbehaviour isn’t a violation of consent. A man might be extremely rude but that doesn’t make him sexually oppressive. Similarly, a man might be very soft and polite yet be a sexual offender – two different things separated by a thin line.
What the social media and different social groups are doing is, they are aligning themselves with gender, positions, choices, ideologies and ignoring the only thing that matters in all the cases – the truth.
Every woman who comes forward has the right to speak, complain and put allegations on a person. As a society we need to support their effort, make sure their voices are not muffled and they are not silenced. Every man who is in question should also be listened to, given a chance to say his piece and not be judged without knowing his side of the story.
Let’s not forget one thing – it was never about men vs women, it was never a war of the genders. It was and should only be about justice. And any injustice denied to any man or woman should be strongly condemned.
Earlier Published at author’s blog.
Image Source – Wikipedia
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