The #metoo hashtag has gone viral in India as women are speaking about sexual assault in unparalleled numbers. Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to prominent woman activist Ranjana Kumari on the #metoo movement.
Ranjana Kumari is a prominent activist and widely regarded as leading force in the women’s movement in India. She is actively involved in research pertaining to gender and women issues and participates regularly at various international fora. She is actively engaged in the process of establishing Gender Balanced Governance Processes and Political Participation of Women in South Asia. At, present, Ranjana Kumari is the Director of the Centre for Social Research (CSR), a Non Governmental Organisation, which is working on the issues related to Women’s Rights.
IC: Women from several fields are coming forward to talk in public about the sexual harassment at work place faced by them. It is unprecedented.
Ranjana Kumari: It is for the first time that a collective call by women has been made and women are breaking their silence to talk in public about it. What is new this time is that in solidarity with one woman journalist, other 13 journalists have come forward to speak. Their experiences were equally shocking. From corporate to informal sector, political parties to Bollywood, cases of sexual harassment are being talked about or reported. It has happened after the law on sexual harassment at work place came into existence. The social media has given open space to women to nail powerful men who take undue advantage of their position and exploit women sexually. The #metoo movement has sent a clear warning to men that ‘enough is enough’ and they cannot sexually harass women at work place. It will become a big movement in our country.
IC: There is an argument that he won't resign because there is no case against him as a Minister.
There is no time frame mentioned in the law so one can take advantage of it. So in that case, an FIR can be registered anytime. The complainant, woman journalist will have to produce a proof to support her case. This law takes into account woman's perception in the sense, how she felt when somebody passed sexist remarks at her.
IC: A section has raised questions like ‘why now’ on #metoo movement? Your views.
Look at what happened on #metoo in America. Several old cases came in public. The fact is that old experiences live with women. Women in India are trained to live with pain. Women with strong financial background or family support or political backing have spoken against sexual harassment in the past.
IC: All the organisations are required to set up internal complaint committees. But how many have actually set up, who will monitor it?
It is unfortunate that there is no mechanism to monitor implementation of government’s directive on setting up of internal complaints committee or ICC in various departments, corporate houses and private offices. The onus is on the National Commission for Women to ensure that organisations comply with the government's directive and constitute ICCs for redressal of such grievances. But that is not happening. Unfortunately, existing ICCs are not aware of terms of references, and their powers.
(Published on 22nd October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 43)