Despite #MeToo Movement, Survivors Of Sexual Assault Struggle For Justice, Why?

#MeToo, Sexual consent ,forcefully kissing women
An arrest warrant has been issued against Malayalam film producer and actor Vijay Babu who reportedly is absconding in Dubai. Babu, charged for sexually assaulting an actor under the guise of offering roles in films, has been untraceable since the complaint was filed. What does the delay in arresting Vijay Babu imply? What does delayed justice mean for the survivors or the families of the victim sexual assault?

A fortnight since the complaint was filed, an arrest warrant and Red Corner Notice were issued against him, and Babu is still at large. News reports also state that he attempted to intimidate the survivor into dropping the case against him.

Renowned actors Malaa Parvathy, Shwetha Menon, and Kuku Parameswaran resigned from the Internal Complaint Committee of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) owing to the soft approach toward allegations against Babu.

Why is AMMA being lenient with Vijay Babu? He has ousted the survivor’s name and is reportedly intimidating her, yet there’s been no action against him, why?

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Other Such High Profile Cases

Actor Dileep was accused of sexually assaulting and alleged the main conspirator of the assault that happened in February 2017. The actor was granted anticipatory bail in the case after new accusations of conspiring a murder were levelled against him.

Concurrently, the former editor-in-chief of a popular tabloid was acquitted in a sexual assault case. Tarun Tejpal who headed investigative tabloid Tehelka was acquitted by District and Sessions Court at Mapusa in North Goa in a 2013 sexual assault case. He was accused of sexually assaulting a colleague inside the elevator of a luxury hotel in Goa in November 2013.

What does the trajectory of these cases denote? Will survivors ever be able to speak up about sexual harassment or sexual assault when faced with such a lackadaisical attitude of the judicial system?

#MeToo Movement

Sexual harassment or assault at the workplace is a grave issue because it tramps a woman’s right to earn her livelihood and her right to life. When the #MeToo Movement first gained momentum in India, many survivors came forth with their stories of sexual harassment, and sexual assault, especially at workplaces.

Many of the men who were called out during the #MeToo movement were those who held positions of power. “It’s dangerous to be around women, you won’t know when they will accuse you of sexually assaulting them,” people, especially men, said when the cases came to light.

Their anger was misplaced. They never once cast a glance of doubt on the accused as they did on survivors who spoke against incidents of sexual assault that had happened ages ago. It was viewed as something cursory after a point and people went on with their lives. Meanwhile, survivors still struggled to get justice.

When Priya Ramani was acquitted by a Delhi Court in a defamation case filed by former Union Minister and journalist MJ Akbar, it was a defining moment for everyone. The court had ruled that “even a man of social status can be a sexual harasser.” The court also mentioned that “a woman has the right to put her grievance even after decades.”

The court’s sentence was a big victory for Ramani and every other survivor who had come out and spoken against their aggressors during the #MeToo Movement. When the judge added that it was time for society to “understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to the mental trauma. The woman cannot be punished for raising her voice against sexual abuse,” it felt like they have been heard.

These cases bring to our notice how difficult it is for a survivor of sexual assault or harassment to get justice. It highlights how in spite of a global socio-political movement which addresses sexual assault, and harassment, there’s a great deal of progress yet to be made in the redressal of these cases.

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Each of these woman’s experiences may be different from the survivor who now is up against Vijay Babu and is demanding justice. But they all faced hurdles in their quest to receive justice. When they all first opened up, they were met with negative social and community reactions, including victim-blaming, encouraging secrecy and patronising behaviour. Studies have also proven how survivors struggle after the abuse is revealed. Paradoxically, the negative reaction stems from “a deep need to believe that the world is a good and just place.”

When an industry is governed largely by a social system like patriarchy that entrusts men to look after organisations, the accusations as such could jeopardise the belief that patriarchy reinforced. But for how long must women suffer? Why must they suffer at all?

One can only conjure hope each time and put up a fight against the perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment and eventually like Ramani, maybe all the survivors will get their due justice. It indeed is an uphill battle but a little support will go a long way!

Views expressed are the author’s own