In the last few days, many people on social media have been targeting the children of those accused under #MeToo. Both Mallika Dua and Prayaag Akbar, public figures in their own rights, are facing hateful comments and snide remarks on Twitter. While we need to show unwavering solidarity with #MeToo survivors, why must children of men outed as alleged predators face any wrath?

We need to remind ourselves that it was not them who crossed the line of appropriate conduct. It wasn’t them who violated anyone’s dignity or abused their power and position. What Mallika or Prayaag face today is the reality of many children, wives and relatives of accused men. These people are dealing with public shaming and sensationalism to no fault of their own.

Given how the culture of harassment has been normalised in our society, this is a reality which could befall any of us.

The onus of shame should fall exclusively on the perpetrators

Those who are taking cheap shots at Mallika or Prayaag should step down a little from their moral high ground. We all know chauvinist men, some of them are eerily close in relation to our comfort. We know that uncle who “accidentally” bumps into young girls at a party. Those creepy old relatives whose touch lingers on our naked arms or shoulders a tad longer than it should. Or a friend’s father who is notorious for sending lewd messages on social media.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • People should steer their wrath away from the families of men accused of sexual harassment, because it was not them who crossed the line of appropriate conduct.
  • The blame of sexual harassment should lie exclusively with the perpetrators. Not with their family members.
  • This shift of focus from the incident is unfair not just to Mallika or Prayaag, but to the entire #MeToo movement in India.
  • The best thing to do right now is to give these people some space.

It is so unfair to be trolled for simply being related by blood to a sexual predator.

Imagine having a close male relative being exposed as a sexual predator and then having to face the world afterwards. It is not easy being a bestselling author’s wife right now, in wake of his flirtatious messages circulating on internet extensively. Or to take a stand for survivors of #MeToo, when your own father, brother or best friend is one of the accused! But this is the painful collateral damage #MeToo has brought along with it. How we handle it, is in our hands.

The best thing to do right now is to give these families some space. Stop hounding them for official statements. Stop demanding that they take a stand. At least give them some time to process their situation. Secondly, do not digress from the point. The blame of sexual harassment should lie exclusively with the perpetrators. Not with their family members. Much as unlikely as it may sound, there is a high probability that Mallika or Prayaag were aware of their fathers’ actions.

Take Dua’s case, the allegations levied against her father go back to 1989. She was born that very year.

Should Mallika not endorse #MeToo because she failed to dig up or come across incidences of alleged sexual misconduct by her father, which are as old as she is? Yet, it has amused many people that Mallika Dua, who has relentlessly backed #MeToo was “harbouring” a perpetrator in her own home. Dragging her name into this controversy is both unfair and misplaced. It again shifts the focus from a man’s behaviour, to a woman who is guilty by sheer genetic association.

It is very difficult for loved ones, when the man you adore and idolise is outed as a perpetrator. But what adds more to the pain is when people begin to take more digs at you for your obliviousness, than discussing the gravity of the situation. This shift of focus from the incident is unfair not just to Mallika or Prayaag, but to the entire #MeToo movement in India. It is a conversation about sexual harassment and power dynamics and how men tend to abuse it. It is about naming and shaming perpetrators and holding them accountable. Please don’t make it about shaming their innocent families and misplacing the blame.

Also Read : #MeToo Is No Laughing Matter. It Is The Tipping Point.

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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