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Me Too And It's Legal Consequences

In 2006, Tarana Burkey launched ME TOO--- a non profit that focus on  providing space for women who has traditionally been Isolde from public  debates About rape and sexual assault to talk about their experiences. It  is about “empowerment through empathy”, Explained Burkey in a recent  interview with Ebony magazine. “It was a Catch phrase to be used from  survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a  movement for radical healing was happening and possible”.

Twelve years later, #METOO Was adopted as a call to arms to all victims  of sexual assault in the midst of the public and volatile campaign to  remove accused serial sexual predator.

In the midst of what seemed to be a nationwide awakening to the  prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, actress and activist Alyssa  Milano took to Twitter to fan the growing flame of outrage. Familiar with  –and cognizant of – the power of Burke’s Me Too approach—Milano  asked her followers to retweet #METOO If they had also been the victims  of sexual assault or harassment. The purpose was to demonstrate the  magnitude of the problem of sexual degradation. Within days, Twitter  and dozens of other public forums were awash in #METOO postings and  sexual assault hotlines experienced a massive surge in callers seeking help and support.

However , We argue, in matters of sexual assault and rape, laws influence  extends far beyond the courtroom. Rather than simply shaping how  sexual violence survivors narrate their experiences during interactions  with legal actress or within legal venues laws in a range of settings even when survivors have not Sought legal redress.

Sexual Harassment

Worldwide, the instances of workplace sexual harassment are considered as gross violation  of rights of woman and it is another form of violence that is prevalent against women.  However the gender roles give the privilege to men to justify the harassment of women.  Sexual harassment thus, is mirror reflecting power of men over women that help them to  sustain patriarchal relations. The violence against women is generally borne out of the  patriarchal values that may be subtle and direct and they are obligated to follow the  dogmatic gender roles. These patriarchal values and attitudes of both women and men  pose the greatest challenge in resolution and prevention of sexual harassment. Workplace  sexual harassment, like other forms of violence, is not harmless. It involves serious health,  human, economic and social costs, which manifest themselves in the overall development indices of a nation.

#Me Too In India

In India it was a child of the international me too movement as 2018 saw the advent of the  #MeToo campaign in India. Inspired by the worldwide movement against sexual assault  and harassment, women across the range came and disclosed their stories about abuse by  men holding the positions of power. And it all started in October 2018 with actress  Tanushree Dutta accusing actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment while they were  shooting for the 2008 film ‘Horn Ok Please’.

The same was followed by allegations by various film stars who discussed their instances  when assault/ harassment were faced by them during their work. Though the laws are in  force that aims at curbing the increasing sexual harassment of women. In India Vishakha v  State of Rajasthan, where a writ petition exposing an incident of brutal gang rape and the  hazards that women are exposed to at work places. Though India had ratified CEDAW,  Convention on Elimination of All forms of discrimination against women and further the   Apex Court had directed the legislature to come up with the separate legislation and it took  almost 13yrs to come up with such a legislation.

Sexual Harassment In India

Sexual harassment in India is known by the Vishakha’s judgement which for the first time took into consideration about the increasing sexual harassment. The POSH Act defines ‘sexual harassment’ in line with the Supreme Court’s definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in the Vishaka Judgment. As per the POSH Act, ‘sexual harassment’ includes unwelcome sexually tinted behaviour , whether directly or by implication, such as:
  1. physical contact and advances,
  2. demand or request for sexual favors,
  3. making sexually coloured remarks,
  4. showing pornography, or
  5. any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature

Sexual harassment constitutes a gross violation of women’s right to equality and dignity. It  has its roots in patriarchy and its attendant perception that men are superior to women and  that some forms of violence against women are acceptable. One of these is workplace  sexual harassment, which views various forms of such harassment, as harmless and trivial.  Often, it is excused as ‘natural’ male behaviour or ‘harmless flirtation’ which women enjoy.

Contrary to these perceptions, it causes serious harm and is also a strong manifestation of  sex discrimination at the workplace. Not only is it an infringement of the fundamental rights  of a woman, under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India “to practice any profession  or to carry out any occupation, trade or business”; it erodes equality and puts the dignity and  the physical and psychological well-being of workers at risk.

This leads to poor productivity  and a negative impact on lives and livelihoods. To further compound the matter, deep- rooted socio-cultural behavioural patterns, which create a gender hierarchy, tend to place  responsibility on the victim, thereby increasing inequality in the workplace and in the society  at large.

Case Law:
Case Name: Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan
Decided :13 August 1997
Led by : 3 bench of judges:
  1. Justice Sujata Manohar
  2. Chief Justice J.S Verma
  3. Justice B.N Kripal

Court Name: Supreme Court of India
Decision by: J.S Verma (chief justice)

Facts
The petition was filed after Bhanwari Devi , a social worker in Rajasthan was brutally gang raped for stopping a child marriage
  • She was a employee of Rajasthan government . She tried to prevent child marriage as a part of her duty as a worker of a woman developer . She was raped by the landlord community. The rape survivor did not get justice from trial court and the rapists were allowed to go free. This emerged a woman's rights group called Vishakha . That field a public interest legislation in the supreme court of India
  • Writ petition to enforce the fundamental rights
  • Sexual harassment at workplace is violence of Article 14, 19 and 21.
  • Article_14 : Equality before law.
  • Article_19 : to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation , trade or a business.
  • Article_21: protection of life and personal liability.

Ms. Meenakshi Arora , Ms Naina Kapoor, and Mr. Nariman assisted the court and their name are recorded in judgment.

Role of judiciary:
Beijing statement of principles of the independence of the judiciary in the LAWASIA region. These principles mere accepted by the chief justice of the Asia and the Pacific Beijing in 1995 as these representing the minimum standard necessary to be observed in order to maintain the independence and effective functioning of the judiciary. The objective and function of the judiciary include the following:
  1. To ensure that all persons are able to live securely under the rule of law.
  2. To administer the law impartially among persons and between persons and the states.
  3. To promote with in the properly limits of the judicial functions the observance and the attainment of human rights.
Guidelines:
  • Duty of the employee or other responsible person in work place and other institutions.
  • It shall be duty of the employer or others responsible person in work place and other institutions to prevent or deter of acts of sexual, harassment by taking all steps required.

For the purpose of sexual harassment include such sexually determined behaviour as
  • Physical contact and advance.
  • A demand or requires for sexual favors.
  • Sexually coloured remarks
  • Any other physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Disciplinary Action
When such conduct amounts to misconduct in employment as the relevant service rules, appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated by the employer in accordance with those rules.

Conclusion
The constitutional principles of equality and liberty have been upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the Vishaka Judgement. the Vishaka Judgement and it has been an inspiration to other nations. However, Bhanwari Devi, the spark that ignited the need for appropriate legislation to safeguard women against sexual harassment, even after two decades, is still awaiting justice to be served. The true spirit of Judicial Activism has been portrayed in the Vishaka Judgement and it has been an inspiration to other nations.

Sexual harassment at workplace:
Though sexual harassment prima facie constitutes gross violation of rights of women however the legislature came with the legislation i.e The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 came into existence to make sure working spaces for women and to create an environment that provides equality of opportunity and status to women. An effective implementation of the Act will contribute to the realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty, equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.

Impact of #Metoo movement:
Cultural impact;
Since a while, Bollywood has been accused of promoting a culture that often promotes toxic ideas of masculinity as the ultimate, given norm of society. In fact, one of the most common storylines in many films normalizes stalking as an acceptable form of behavior in trying to win the attention of the female lead. Additionally, the prevalence of many item numbers and songs which exist without any relevance to the plot, only to raise the glamour quotient in films, continue to glorify the objectification of women. This of course is the result of regressive, patriarchal norms that are still deeply internalised in our culture and society.

However, we are slowly moving towards a culture that is striving towards gender equality and attempting to break away from sexist trends. There are more films being made with female protagonists in the lead today, which has, in turn, encouraged actresses to hike their fees to what they rightfully deserve.

For instance, actress Deepika Padukone was paid more than her male co-stars for the contentious, epic-drama Padmaavat that released last year. With more and more actresses breaking the ‘eye-candy’ or ‘beauty without brains’ stereotype and strongly voicing their opinions on various issues of critical importance, especially concerning their representation in films or unflattering experiences on a movie set, the #MeToo movement has become an integral part of mainstream popular culture in India, and hopefully will not fade away anytime soon.

Political impact:
Though the #MeToo movement that began in the entertainment industry, it went on to hit the political arena too and famous personalities came in the open ground. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, Indian politics has always been a sensation. The head of Mahila Congress, Shri. Sushmita Dev, was of the view that movement must not be given a political influence further she stated “She was of the view that it is one of those issues that must not be politicised and called it a people’s movement.” She further elaborated, “#MeToo is a movement that wont only revolve around evidence but it is a harsh reality that has to be accepted by the citizens. She believed that women should come up with their instances without any fear and shame. She promised to make sure that legislations are enforced properly and laws further to empower women are passed.

Though the Women and child development minister, Shri Maneka Gandhi proposed to create a committee to tackle all the matters connected with the movement with eminent legal personalities in it. Further to create an ensured a friendly environment at workplace and to make it more safe and comfortable for her a complaint portal #SheBox was started where the complaints against the perpetrators can be lodged directly. #SHe-Box :

The introduction of She-Box is a positive step of the Indian government in its continuing efforts to provide a safe and fair working environment for women. With this initiative, female employees now have another channel to raise workplace sexual harassment complaints. The government will however need to quickly implement the requisite infrastructure and resources to manage this initiative to achieve the desired objectives.

While She-Box has currently been designed to cater to the interests of female employees, enabling them to raise complaints of sexual harassment on a quick time basis without fear of retaliation, the government should also use this platform by providing necessary tools to help employers comply with the Anti-Harassment Law. By way of examples, She-Box could serve as a point of reference for employers or their ICC should they have any questions relating to the process to be followed upon receiving a complaint or how the report should be worded. It could also serve as a repository of experienced personnel who could serve as the external member on the employer’s ICC at different locations.

Conclusion:
Though #Metoo was just a movement, but it gave the spark to the citizens to fight against the harassment. However the courts have been actively involved in issuing directions to the states to make sure that the Internal Complaints Committee for the organized sector and Local Complaints Committee for the unorganized sector have been established by the authorities. However the actual need is to educate the women about what actually constitutes sexual harassment as they might have been facing the same but ignoring because of stigma that may be attached to them if they complain about it.

The world is currently witnessing a massive awakening with the #Metoo movement with India being at the top-most rank, as per the Report published by Google Trends. The #Metoo movement began as a hashtag on Twitter in 2017 and now India is having a #Metoo movement of its own engulfing many powerful and famous personalities. Recently, this movement was chosen as the Person of the Year by the Time magazine. Sexual Harassment at workplace is a rampant and deep-rooted characteristic of patriarchy.

With the larger influx of women in workforce, Sexual Harassment at workplace has assumed greater dimensions. Fingers have been broadly pointed to various named personalities especially those in the domain of media and entertainment industry. However the question that remains to be pondered over is can the accusations being expressed via the Internet be legally justifiable?

The young survivor:
She was 16 years old when a prominent member of Uttar Pradesh’s legislative assembly, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, allegedly raped her in the Unnao district in 2017. Her complaint to the police has been laid out in charging documents filed by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, in 2018. The case is being considered by a New Delhi court at the direction of India’s Supreme Court. The girl, whose identity is shielded under India’s laws, is known simply as the Unnao rape survivor.

In the police complaint, she said she was lured by the promise of a job and raped at the lawmaker’s residence by him and others before being abducted and sold to another individual for Rs 60,000 ($846). She managed to escape. The girl’s attempt at self-immolation in April 2018 outside the chief minister’s residence in her state made headlines in India and around the world, just before the country’s MeToo movement picked up strength.

Case law:
Case name: Unnao Rape Case. State Of Uttar Pradesh
Date: 4th june 2017
Court :Supreme Court of India
Convicted : Kuldeep Singh Sengar
Attack type : Rape & Murder

Background :
4th day of June, 2017, a minor girl, merely 17 years in age then, was kidnapped from her village of residence in Uttar Pradesh, and raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, brother Jaideep alias Atul Singh, and others She was found 17 days later ,in a village named Auraiya The next day, FIR was filed. no action was taken and all her voice fell into the government’s deaf ears because the reason is Sengar being named in the report.

the father of the victim was beaten black and blue by the legislator’s brother and co-accused Jaideep alias Atul Sengar and others, and video of the same was put up on social media for the world to witness. Even though the father of the victim filed a report with the police about this, he was arrested by the police and sent to jail. yet the latter was not even mentioned in the report filed

Unfortunately, merely a week later the victim’s father succumbed to his injuries, owing to the police beatings. The post mortem report mentioned the cause of the death of the man to be “ blood poisoning”, along with injuries on his body.

Senior advocate G.S. Chaturvedi prayed to the Allahabad High Court for a court monitored investigation into the entire matter, and was accepted by the latter for the same.

The next day, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ordered for the arrest of K.S. Sengar, Jaideep alias Atul Singh, and others involved in the crimes.

Facts
The 2017 Unnao Rape Case another news rocked the entire country the fact that this was not the first case involving a member of the legislative branch doing so Politician and BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was accused of having raped a minor Dalit girl. a number of MPs and MLAs that have or had ongoing rape charges on them. However, what happened later proved to be more calamitous.

Conclusions
On 16 December 2019, Sengar was convicted for the rape. he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court and he was fined Rs. 2500000 . from which Rs 15 lakhs will be paid to the state government to meet the trial and prosecution expenses. Further in March 2020 Senger was found "guilty of culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy in her father's death.

The AD Writer
An offhand Tweet by Indian comedian Utsav Chakraborty about men behaving badly on a cruise ship played a role in launching India’s #MeToo movement when it caught the eye of Mumbai-based advertising professional Mahima Kukreja, causing her to come forward with allegations about his behavior.

Replying to the tweet, Kukreja alleged Chakraborty had sent her unsolicited photos of a penis two years earlier. The ensuing Twitter furor prompted an apology from Chakraborty, and from his former employer, comedy collective All India Backhoe. The collective apologized for continuing to work with the comedian after its chief executive officer had received “specific, detailed allegations” of sexual harassment against him.

Almost eight months later, the group announced it fired its staff and halted production of new comedy sketches on its YouTube channel after most of its partners had decided to stop working with it.

The Accused:
In an email, Chakraborty said he has few friends left and would like to be in therapy but can’t afford it because he is not working. “I haven’t worked or seen a paycheck since last October,” he said. He said that he’s done things that were “problematic” and that the realization they made people “uncomfortable” has taken a heavy toll on him. He wishes the #MeToo movement well, though says in his case the media ran “wildly irresponsible and exaggerated accounts of what happened without a single ounce of verification or factual assessment,” and that there was no independent investigation of the allegations.

“Someday, maybe, I’ll talk about what transpired in detail,” he said. “It was not at all as cut and dry as it was presented to the world. But in the interim, I just hope to not be an absolute dingbat now or in the future — if I get to have one, that is.”

The Accuser:
Kukreja emerged as a leader of the #MeToo movement in India, as women across  the country asked her to use her Twitter platform to give voice to their experiences  of harassment and assault. In an email, she said that in the year since she came  forward she has gained “some powerful platforms,” yet has struggled in her career  and had to take time off. She also said her social circle has shrunk as she  disengaged from those who defended people accused of misconduct, or those  accused themselves.

“This experience changed my life in a way that I became a much better judge of  people,” she said. “Those who speak in support and those who actually support are not always the same people.”

For far too long, Indian women have been conditioned to remain silent to avoid disturbing the  status quo. Yes, there are rapes and sexual assault cases every day and yes, there is an  outrage for selective rape cases that jolts the nation but apart from that, we women are  expected to keep quiet and accept that India is safe because there are some countries that  are even worse than India. Years of systematic conditioning to silence, oppress, discriminate,  and abuse women have normalized ‘rape culture’ in India. However, in 2018 October, Indians,  especially on twitter, were taken up by a storm. India was witnessing its #MeToo movement.

References:
  • https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Beijing-Statement.pdf
  • https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-are-the-laws-on-rape-and-sexual-crimes/article30233033.ece
  • https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-21950197
  • https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-1000-fast-track-courts-to-be-set-up-for-rape-cases/articleshow/72402934.cms
Written By:
  1. Sonali Singh &
  2. Tripti Singh

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