The MeToo revolution

With #MeToo we are in a much more intense phase of the Revolution which is sweeping India.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: October 21, 2018 6:49:43 am
me too movement, indian express columns, tavleen singh, maneka gandhi, indian express opinions, sexual harassment With #MeToo we are in a much more intense phase of the Revolution which is sweeping India.

It began with Nirbhaya. It was not the first time a woman was raped in India.Yet the manner of the attack on her and the attitude of her killers as well as the tardiness of political leaders to come to her aid appalled most people. She was not from the ‘elite’. Even if she was, being elite is not such a crime that you are denied all rights, as the RSS should realise. Indeed with Nirbhaya, it was her ordinariness but her aspiration to do better for herself and her family that made all women identify with her.

With #MeToo we are in a much more intense phase of the Revolution which is sweeping India. It is the revolution of women asking for a measure of equality and security as they go about their working lives. Foeticide once tolerated is now rare. Female infanticide is a crime and has cone down. The gender ratio, still below parity, is improving. But young women who have working lives face routine sexual harassment at every turn. In the media, movies, education, they normally have to work for male bosses, in jobs with no structure and much room for discrimination. They are routinely underpaid compared to their male colleagues. They have been suffering sexual predation for decades.

Now they have got a voice, a collective voice at that. Social media is a strong weapon as the hashtag label shows. You can attract the world’s attention to your grouse. It need not be a dirty secret anymore which can be suppressed inside the office, or the studio. A tweet can go viral and the accused stands little chance of browbeating the victim.

Normal Parliamentary politics is helpless to tackle this. India has had women MPs, many women leaders and one woman Prime Minister. Here is where the elite tag can stick. Having women in high position has not helped the women as a collective. This is because the patriarchal context is obvious. Rashtrapita is revered and Rashtrapati is honoured. Why are these tags so masculine? Why does India have no Rashtramata? How offensive would it be to be called Rashtrapatni?

Every vote bank has a clout. But the largest vote bank — women — has to wait before getting 33 per cent (not even parity!) in the Lok Sabha. Champions of vote banks representing OBCs or Dalits, not to say upper castes, have blocked this reform in a most undemocratic way. There is no urgency to it as there is to pandering other smaller noisier vote banks. As it is, the Lok Sabha has not enough MPs. If you say one MP per million voters, already by 2014, there were 850 million voters. How about increasing the size to 900 anticipating recent growth in numbers of voters, and assigning 300 seats to women. These would be reserved seats. It should not exclude women from contesting the other 600 seats.

This is the moment not just for the government but for the entire political system to respond to #MeToo in a positive way. What happens to the individual allegations will depend on how brazen the men accused are and how the legal system takes its course. That is as it should be. We have the Rule of Law and everyone is innocent until proved guilty.

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