When the #MeToo movement broke upon the world, with women all around the globe calling out sexual predators and bosses who exploit their positions of power and prey upon helpless underlings, there was an outpouring of support and sympathy from all quarters, and rightly so. As expected, many powerful men were named and shamed and the media, just lapped it up. Newspapers, magazines, tabloids and the electronic media as well, went to town with it. As more and more people were exposed, the feeding frenzy in the social media and the traditional media grew at a frightening pace.
Given that we are a global village now, it wasn’t long before the #MeToo movement hit India also. Just like overseas, the movement caught on here also and many skeletons started falling out of the proverbial cupboard. Many women, who had suffered silently for fear of reprisal or dishonour felt empowered and hit back at the men who had preyed on them. Many heads rolled, not just in the realm of journalism and in the corporate world, but also in the very seat of power at the Centre where a prominent journalist-turned-minister had to step down, because of alleged misdemeanours in the past.
Bollywood had its fair share of drama too, (excuse the pun), and many directors and producers were named and shamed. The most shocking of all were the said revelations about the alleged un-sanskari behaviour of a certain ‘sanskari’ gentleman, which left many gasping in disbelief and the man in question slapping a defamation suit on the accuser. While I totally support the #MeToo movement and women calling out their tormentors and naming and shaming them, I cannot ignore the fact that some women used the totally brilliant and legitimate empowering movement to get publicity. Because just like not all men are predators, in the same way, not all women are innocent or victims.
I for one know, many professionals, who were in consensual relationships for the sake of furthering their careers, and then later turned accusers. Also, the unfairness of the whole thing is that with so many women calling out their alleged tormentors years after the alleged incident happened, the men did not have any proof of their innocence.
Also, as usual, I don’t support this trial by social media and the mainstream media, because the line between genuine victims and willing participant-turned-accuser, was blurred at many times and no one really cared to sift out the genuine cases from the vindictive, vendetta-powered ones. This, in my view, was not just unfair on the men falsely accused, but was also a great disservice to genuine victims of abuse. It diluted their cause and turned many against the movement. Which, in my view, is a tragedy as it takes colossal amount to courage to face up to your tormentor.
This reminded one of the anti-dowry Acts which had the support of the public initially but later began to be seen as a tool to harass hapless husbands and in-laws. Just because of a few unscrupulous, manipulative women, genuine victims lost the sympathy and support not just of the public but later of the courts themselves.
In a ruling in September 2018, the Supreme Court said that Section 498A’s misuse to harass the other side (read husband and his family) was causing social unrest. “There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man,” a Bench headed by then Chief Justice Misra said while protecting pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases.
In fact, this brings me to the main reason why I picked up this issue right now. Of late, there has been a #Men Too movement, where men, who have either been victims of female sexual voyeurs or predators, or even falsely accused of dowry harassment, domestic violence, molesting, or worse raping someone, have come forth to put their point across, make their voice heard and in some cases cry out for justice.
The movement started after Indian actress Pooja Bedi came out in support of her long-time friend, actor Karan Oberoi, an accused in a rape case. I will not comment on the merits of the case as the matter is sub-juice, but the fact is that the actress firmly believed that Oberoi was a victim here and had been falsely accused of rape after a consensual relationship went sour. In fact, the man in question was granted bail by the Mumbai High Court after he presented texts as proof of consent. The court also ordered action against the accuser for staging an attack on herself.
The Mumbai Police was also slammed by the court for the “shoddy” “one sided investigation” done by it. Soon after Pooja Bedi raised the point about the need for a #Men Too movement, equal rights activists held some demonstrations and some men, who had allegedly been victims of harassment by women, also sat on a dharma demanding that a commission for men also be set up on the lines of the National Women’s Commission, to take action against erring women.
However, the sad part of it is, that the silence on the issue, for the most part, is deafening, as long time activists who have been fighting for the cause would undoubtedly agree. Except for a few mentions in the mainstream media, which followed the Karan Oberoi case very closely, and routinely reported the few demonstrations in favour of the #Men Too movement, there was no outpouring of support like there was for the #MeToo movement.
It was by and large a damp squib. The social media, which usually is very proactive where its support for women is concerned (and I thank them profusely for it) and the public at large, just scoffed at it or was embarrassed by it or worse still, simply ignored it.
So, I beg to ask the question. Why this reverse gender bias? Do we genuinely believe that men cannot be victims of sexual harassment, molestation and misuse of well-meaning laws meant to empower women and help genuine victims?
How many professionals can honestly say that they have not been privy to the fact that some powerful women bosses have preyed upon their junior colleagues? That careers of those young men who spoke up about it have been destroyed?
Weren’t the stringent anti-rape laws that were formulated after the horrific Nirbhaya gang-rape case not exploited and misused by some unethical women, who turned consensual relationships into rape cases only to get back at the man after a relationship turned sour? The Delhi Commission for Women’s own statistics show that over 53 per cent of rape cases filed between April 2013 and July 2014 in Delhi were false.
Did this not sicken the courts of the country to the point that they came down heavily against people filing such false cases? So why, are we as a country, or the usually active social justice warriors, taking the #Men Too movement so lightly? Why is there no sense of outrage and outpouring of support for men who have suffered in the past at the hands of women?
I am all for empowering long-suffering women and fighting for their rights, but what I don’t stand for is this reverse gender bias. It’s time we stood up for justice in society for all, men and women alike.
Author is former News Editor, The New Indian Express and former founding Editor of a Dubai-based lifestyle magazine Pose. She has 25 years of experience with various News organisations under her belt and used to write columns on Real Estate and Personal Finance for Gulf News