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“Why women stay quiet when sexually harassed.” By Meghna Pant

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Have you, like millions of women from around the world, been part of the#MeToo campaign? Do you, like millions of women from around the world, have your harassment story to share? Do you wish these stories were a thing of the past? This is what we were discussing at this month’s Feminist Rani. Here’s are the highlights from Meghna Pant.

we discussed how widespread sexual harassment is and how the (mis)understanding of consent plays a big role in it

I was joined by Mallika Dua, Supreet Singh and Harnidh Kaur, all of whom are using different mediums from comedy to poetry to technology to address these issues and effect change.

In this session we discussed how widespread sexual harassment is and how the (mis)understanding of consent plays a big role in it.

What startles me is that so many women, including our world’s most successful and powerful women like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, are hesitant to speak out against their perpetrator, whether it’s Harvey Weinstein or an anonymous man on the street.

“Women face hostility and doubt if they speak out. They also feel that they will develop a contentious reputation which could destroy their career,” said comedian Dua.

Singh added that she had left her fast-track job with a liquor company after she faced sexual harassment. “The moment women start talking they are just made to shut up”

Women face hostility and doubt if they speak out. They also feel that they will develop a contentious reputation which could destroy their career

The #MeToo campaign, initiated by actor Alyssa Milano, took social media across the world by storm, led to the rise of a new campaign called #HimToo, where perpetrators were listed. But this raised hackles because men were being named anonymously, which meant that there was no answerability or accountability, in place where institutions and procedures had to be followed.

“It is the system and the procedures that have failed us,” said Kaur. “That’s why we are left with no option but to list names in this way.”

Do men in India pay a price when they’re called out? Think of Tarun Tejpal and Arunabh Kumar, where their companies suffered because of them, but then I think of Mahmood Farooqui, who was let out on the grounds that our courts don’t know how to define consent.

After the recent scandal when superstar Akshay Kumar made a sexist remark about her – Aap bell bajao, main aap ko bajata hun – Dua said men in power are often granted impunity.

“I feel that we as women often go numb at the moment when we are faced with sexual harassment. We don’t react immediately.”

Also Read: Mallika Dua Slams Akshay Kumar

“Men seem to think that it is ok to talk like this to women,” said Singh.

I asked them to take a call-to-action. What can be done by women, by men and by institutions to break this culture of silence and inaction?

“Comedy is a wonderful platform to deliver the message without seeming hostile or pedantic,” said Dua.

Singh spoke about how women can download the Safecity app on their mobile phones that shows them when they are entering an area which is not safe or even where the nearest police station is. “This is good way to begin the process to protect yourself.”

Kaur who uses poetry to express the issues women face is now entering the world of policy making and implored the audience members to be patient with change. “We are a billion-plus people. Things will change, slowly. Be patient. It will happen.”

 

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“Why women stay quiet when sexually harassed.” By Meghna Pant
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