#MeToo Finally Comes to India

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Exactly a year ago, when numerous women spoke out about the sexual crimes they faced at the hands of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, no one imagined that it would give rise to a movement which would have such a rippling effect, globally. But finally, a year later the #metoo movement did finally make its way to another huge entertainment industry: Bollywood.

Earlier this month, Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta returned to Mumbai, India after 10 years (following her ostracizing due to assault complaints in 2008), and vocalized, her experiences of how she was sexually assaulted by Bollywood actor, Nana Patekar. She further went on to call out the other accomplices behind her assault. The news did almost quite literally shake the film fraternity, and that was when I realized that the #metoo movement had finally arrived in India.

Bollywood, despite being so successful and renowned, is unfortunately highly nepotistic in nature. It’s no lie that it takes years and perhaps decades of effort to make it to the silver screen if you don’t belong to a film family, or have a godfather to constantly guide you. This creates the perfect breeding ground for directors, producers and actors to demand sexual favors, in return for work. Most of the times, assaulters consciously disregard the idea of ‘consent’ and commit horrendous crimes, because they know that non-outsiders and struggling actors wouldn’t dare complain in order to save their careers.

This incident led to a nationwide movement, and several women came out with their stories, exposing top directors and casting directors like Vikas Bahl and Mukesh Chabbra. This movement had such a lasting effect that it slowly spread to the stand-up comedy industry and even reached top media houses, like the revered newspaper ‘Times of India’, after which its editor KR Sreenivas subsequently resigned. It was especially refreshing to see top actresses and actors like Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh openly condemn the perpetrators and their actions and support women for coming forward with their stories. In fact, it was possibly the first time the country witnessed the film industry coming together in solidarity, further strengthening the voices of assault victims.

Whilst closely looking at this movement, I’ve come to realize that this somewhere boils to one and one thing only: Patriarchy. India, like most nations, is a patriarchal society. A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare in 2007 reported that sexual assault committed on boys and girls almost occur at the same rate (with 52% being boys). Patriarchy, by nature, is so deeply rooted and toxic for men and women both, that no one has ever benefitted from such a regressive system. It conveniently shames women for not having ‘spoken earlier’, and shames men for expressing their views.

Now, I’m not trying to take the platform away from women, but instead, I’m hoping that men too will step on this platform and vocalize their stories. To the women who have spoken, I applaud you and respect your courage immensely. To the women who haven’t yet spoken, I admire your strength and respect your struggle. To the men, your story matters, and trust me, we’re all listening. The #metoo movement was and is never going to be gender exclusive in nature, and I sincerely hope to see this movement spread to other industries and sections of society at the same unwavering rate. Victims of sexual assault have stayed silent for far too long and I think it’s time we finally listen to them and let the culprits know that their time’s finally up.

Srika Nambiar