A Year of #MeToo: What it Achieved, and didn’t

In India, the results aren’t immediately obvious. Men accused by multiple women continue to write, be feted and find work. Others brazen it out. After facing a barrage of accusations, including rape, former minister MJ Akbar has brought charges of criminal defamation against one of his accusers, the journalist and my friend Priya Ramani. “This case has come at great personal cost to me”, she told the court.

And, yet, if India’s MeToo movement has achieved anything, it is awareness, among corporates and employees, of the law; among predatory bosses that it’s #TimesUp; among women of the power of their collective voice.

A conversation that began post the December 16 Delhi gangrape has grown louder. We may be miles away from a world free of sexual assault, but we are certainly a few notches closer.

Is it a coincidence that two cases of sexual assault that predate the MeToo movement have recently surged forward in the courts? The Supreme Court has rejected Tarun Tejpal’s plea to quash charges against him, and asked the Goa trial court to wrap up proceedings in six months. And, in a Delhi court, a researcher has begun her deposition against RK Pachauri, four years after she filed a complaint against her former boss.

“No woman now believes she has to remain silent”, says writer Mahima Kukreja, one of MeToo’s early accusers. Speaking up still comes at a cost, but it’s a cost that many more are now prepared to pay. Every step forward, no matter how tiny, whittles down the foundations of patriarchy and takes us one step closer to a world of equal dignity. Yes, it was worth it. It always is.

Published in Hindustan Times on September 20, 2019

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