The Me Too Movement in India is an outburst which is influenced by the prevailing international campaign against issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The movement started in the Malayalam film industry through an effort to protect the rights of the female artist from sexual assaults. The gaining international popularity of the movement has increased its momentum in India following the sexual harassment case in Bollywood between actress Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar. The aftermath of this has caused many Indian women in the government, news media and film sectors to open on their experiences on sexual harassment with men.
The Me Too Movement which is also tagged #MeToo is a struggle to end all forms of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The movement became more popular in October 2017 on social media via a hashtag that voices out against the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
WHAT ARE THE LAWS ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN INDIA?
Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code defines sexual harassment as an unacceptable physical contact and advances which include an unwanted sexual demand, sexual overtures, request for sex, making unwanted sexual remarks and showing of pornographic images of someone without the person’s consent. The law prescribes a punishment of three years imprisonment with a fine.
Section 354B prescribes a 3-years imprisonment and a fine for the offense of forcing a woman to undress.
Watching or taking nude pictures of a woman without her approval is a criminal offense as prescribed in Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code. The first conviction attracts 3 years imprisonment and a fine while the second conviction or more attract a jail term of 3 to 7 years with a fine.
Section D criminalizes the act of following or trying to contact a woman despite her persistent refusal of the contact and the act of monitoring a woman by using an electronic means of communication or the internet without her consent. The first conviction attracts a prison term of 3 years and a fine while more than one conviction is punished with 3 – 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Insult against the modesty of a woman by making sounds or saying words that intrudes into her privacy is criminalized under 13 Section 509 of the IPC. This offense is punished with 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Section 1 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act criminalizes the act of showing the body part of a child or exhibiting the child’s body or making attempts at creating sexual images of a child. Offenders is to serve a 3 years’ imprisonment with a fine.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION, AND REDRESSAL) ACT 2013?
- Sexual harassment at the workplace is defined in the Act and creates a mechanism for redress and equally prohibits malicious charges.
- Concepts of a hostile work environment as forms of sexual harassment is featured in the Act.
- An aggrieved woman has been widely defined to cover all women irrespective of status and age in the society.
- The definition of an employer is covered in the Act.
- The Act covers students in colleges, patients in hospitals and employers will inaugurate committees to investigate complaints made by the aggrieved. Any employer or local authority that defaults in this regard will be punished with a fine of Rs. 50000.
- The complaint committee has the power to gather evidence just like the civil court.
- The complaint committee must complete its inquiry within 90 days of commencement of the investigation.
- Employers are to sensitize its employers on sexual harassment and make the necessary policies that will limit its occurrence at the workplace.
- Each branch of the workplace with 10 employees must constitute a complaint committee.
MOST OF THE RECENT SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASES IN INDIA THAT BECAME TOP MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Below are some of the most important sexual harassment cases in India.
Tanushree Dutta & Nana Patekar Case-
- Tanushree Dutta is a Bollywood actress who had been off the camera for many years. On the 26th of September, 2018, she was hosted by Zoom TV, where Nana Patekar was accused of having assaulted her sexually during the casting of the movie Horn ‘OK’ Pleasss. This exposition is likened to the case of Harvey Weinstein who was equally alleged to have sexually assaulted a movie cast.
Dutta’s declaration is regarded as the pillar for the sustenance of the Me Too movement in India. It is believed that more and more women will be now come up to declare their feelings against incidents of sexual harassments and more high-profile individuals in the entertainment industry who are into the act of sexual exploitation will be exposed.
This allegation of sexual assault was first made Dutta in 2008 against Patekar. A complaint was filed by Dutta in 2008 against the CINTAA but it was rejected because they lacked the jurisdiction to entertain such matters.
In 2013, Dutta raised the matter again during an interview but this time, it was openly rejected. However, the CINTAA apologized to Dutta in September 2018 and expressed their regrets for not addressing the matter in 2008 but added that the case cannot be reopened because it is more than 3 years.
Her allegations were backed by the Journalist Janice Sequeira who claimed to have witnessed the incidence. In addition to that, she declared that she was asked by Vivek Agnihotri to dance naked with Irrfan Khan during the making of the movie Chocolate.
Janice Sequeira disclosed that these two namely: Sunil Shetty and Irrfan Khan both resisted the order on her behalf during the episode. Vivek denied these accusations through a legal means as stated in the constitution and rather regarded it as an attempt by Dutta to get public sympathy.
However, the accused filmmaker has denied all the allegations, citing that Tanushree Dutta is working to obtain an unnecessary publicity while undermining his reputation through a court summon that was sent to her.
The Assistant Director of the film production company Chocolate, Sattuajit Gazmer has publicly refuted Dutta’s claims.
Tanushree has alleged series of attacks on her life which has been orchestrated by Nana Patekar. In one of the interviews she granted, she declared that the accused had called on the MNS party to destroy her vehicle. And that Patekar is behind all the abuse and retaliation that she is facing. This claim was supported by the popular choreographer Ganesh A.
A video released in 2008 which went viral on the social media captured a scene where Dutta’s car was bashed. This action of car bashing was committed by a journalist known as Pawan Bharadwaj who accepted to have committed the crime following an earlier brawl he had with Dutta’s group.
The MNS party had filed a defamation case against Dutta while she has also received two court summons from Vivek Agnihotri and Nana Patekar.
However, on the 6th of October 2018, an FIR was filed by Dutta at a Police Station in Oshiwara against Nana Patekar and his supporters.
- Varun Grover an award-winning songwriter has been indicted by a former student who attended Banaras Hindu University for sexually assaulting her in 2001 under the disguise of working a drama production. However, on the 9th of October 2018 Varun has denied this allegation via a tweet with the promise to release more information on the matter.
- Alok Nath has been accused by Vinta Nanda who is a major player in TV series ‘Tara’ for abusing her sexually a few years ago. It is the #MeToo campaign which is going on around the world that as offered her the confidence to speak on a crucial matter like this. Nanda added that Alok Nath had harassed the leading actress in the show who showed signs of disinterestedness towards his advances. Alok Nath reacted to this accusation by saying it may have taken place or not but that he isn’t the culprit.
- Guarang Doshi who produced the recently released drama ‘Stree’ that features Rajkumar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor has been accused by the Bollywood actress Flora Saini for sexual harassment. In narrating her ordeal via Facebook, she expressed her joy for those who have opened on their sexual harassment experiences. She recalled having a broken jaw at the hands of the producer while they dated in 2007, following which she had to end things with him. When asked why she did not speak up then, she answered that people would not have believed her because of the influence and popularity of the producer in an industry she is yet to be fully known.
- Chetan Bhagat is one of the best-selling authors in India. A woman posted a screenshot of their WhatsApp conversations on the #MeToo platform of which Chetan has apologized for openly on Facebook.
- Aditi Mittal who is a popular standup comedian has been accused by Kaneez Surka for kissing her forcefully and inserting his tongue in her mouth in 2016 during a show that she hosted. In his reaction, Aditi Mittal has described the incident as a comical; but has also apologized.
- In Mumbai, a 13-year old boy was sexually harassed by a masked man on three occasions in school. The incident came to the public glare after the boy’s mother saw a chocolate in his bag. It was then that the boy confided with the mother and narrated his ordeal at the hands of the intruder and accepted that it was the intruder that offered him the chocolates.
- JUN Professor who was accused of sexual harassment has resigned in March 2018 following the public’s outcry against his actions.
- In Karaikal a headmaster has been held for sexually abusing a minor who is just 5 years by age. The matter was reported to the school administration by the parents of the minor. However, the school failed to initiate any action against the erring headmaster, it was then that the parents of the child decided to go to the police who arrested the headmaster after the results of their investigation.
- Vikas Bahl who is the director of the series ‘Queen’ was recently accused by a woman who worked his crew member. According to the lady, Vikas Bahl abused her sexually while she was working on one of his productions.
- Kailesh Kher who is a popular singer has been accused by a journalist for sexually assault. According to her, Kailesh Kher had slipped his hands into her thigh. However, Kailesh has denied the allegation.