India's #MeToo Movement Finally Leaps Forward
Women in journalism and Bollywood began coming forward on Friday.
The women of India are standing up in solidarity with females around the world who are demanding an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Inspired, in part, by the senate testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the US, members of Bollywood and India's news media have come forward en masse to share stories of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault, reported the New York Times.
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"It almost felt like the women were waiting," comedian Mahima Kukreja said in an interview with the New York Times. "'Am I allowed to share my trauma? Am I allowed to share my story?'"
As a result of the reports, public apologies have been issued by a major Bollywood production house, one of the country's premier comedy troupes has seen two co-founders step down, and some of the country's biggest news organizations are launching internal investigations, the Times noted.
But while these events are making waves among the elites, many say that progress is advancing at a snail's pace in rural areas. Only days ago, 36 Indian school girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were hospitalized because they stood up against sexual harassment in a sports facility at a boarding school.
"They had been always teasing us and scribbling dirty words on the walls of our school," Guida, one of the targeted students, told the Guardian about boys' behavior leading up to the incident.
Public allegations in Hollywood against Harvey Weinstein a year ago helped #MeToo quickly become a powerful movement in the United States, noted the Times. But India has struggled to join in the progressive mission, due to cultural obstacles.
Many accused of misconduct have been quick to fight back in the courts, as did Rajendra Pachauri, who stepped down as head of the United Nations' panel on climate change after sexual harassment charges by a female employee, according to the New York Times.
Pachauri filed a defamation suit against Vrinda Grover, a New Delhi lawyer and human rights activist who helped draft some of Indiaâ€™s laws on sexual harassment and child abuse, for releasing statements from two accusers who said they were willing to testify against him.
"Maybe the evolution is slower compared to the West," said Tanushree Dutta, a Bollywood actress and former Miss India who now resides in the US. "But evolution is inevitable. It is happening in the remotest, darkest corners of our planet."