Picture Courtesy: https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/regional-cinema/story/metoo-in-tollywood-annesha-paul-accuses-gondho-director-of-threatening-her-into-having-sex-1367310-2018-10-13
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY BHAVYA SINGH BAGHEL, A STUDENT OF LAW COLLEGE DEHRADUN.
The “#Me Too” Phrase was coined by Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organiser, in 2006 on Myspace social network which received widerecognition on social media in October, 2017 when Alyssa Milano, an American actress, used the hashtag in her tweet against Harvey Weinstein.Me Too Movement or #MeToo Movement is against sexual harassment and sexual assault usually at workplaces.Sexual problems not only undermines the confidence level of the women but also creates a negative impact in the society. With the passing time, sexual harassment at workplaces have increased leading to its own detrimental effects on the women.
Purpose of #Me Too Movement
The movement was started by Tarana Burke with the primary purpose of empowering women, especially young and vulnerable with empathy against sexual harassment and sexual assault. However, Alyssa used the phrase with the intent of revealing the extent of sexual harassment problem in the world.She tweeted “if all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem” and they did. The Phrase had been used more than 2, 00,000 times by the end of the day and tweeted more than 5, 00,000 times the very next day i.e., October 16, 2017.
#Me Too Movement in India
The #Me Too movement in India was influenced by the international worldwide social movement but it differed in key ways. In America, the sexual harassment case against Harvey Weinstein was investigated by the reliable sources of United States whereas in India, it started on social media when actress Tanushree Dutta while giving interview to Zoom TV accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on the sets of the movie Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss (2009). In addition to that, she also accused VivekAgnihotri for asking her to remove her clothes and dance with actor Irrfan Khan on the sets of Chocolate to which the later denied and sent a legal notice to her since such allegations were tarnishing his image.
After such incident, many women came forward with complaints of sexual harassment at work place. Union minister MJ Akbar is one of those accused of sexual harassment by at least 10 women who had worked with him during his stint as an editor at the Asian Age and Telegraph. Akbar denied the charges and responded to the allegations with a defamation suit against journalist PriyaRamani, who was the first to name him. In addition to this, senior journalists and bollywood personalities like Sajid Khan, VikasBahl, and AlokNath have also been accused of sexual harassment.
Legal Consequences of #Me Too Movement
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The apex court laid down various guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment at workplace in the Vishakha&Ors. v. State of Rajasthan which later led to the establishment of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.Sec. 26of the Act prescribes penalties for non-compliance and includes a monetary fine of up to ₹ 50,000/- amongst other penalties.
- The penalty may extend to ₹ 5 million and imprisonment for every officer of the company who is in default for a term which may extend to three years or with fine in the range of ₹ 50,000 and ₹ 500,000.
- If an employer repeats the same offense, authorities can double the financial penalty and/or cancel the registration of the entity or revoke any statutory business licenses.
- Once a sexual harassment case is reported, employers must collect evidence and take action within three months.
- If the aggrieved woman is not satisfied, she can approach the court under section 509 of the Penal Code, or report to police and revisit the complaint.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down guidelines for setting up of Internal Complaints Committee to deal with the cases of sexual harassment at workplace. Despite such efforts, after the enactment of Sexual Harassment Act, the Vishakha Guidelines cease to exist. With the widespread movement, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has asked the centre as well as the state to submit a report on the implementation of law against Sexual harassment of women at workplaces.
After hearing a plea filed by an NGO Initiative for Inclusion Foundation, the bench led by Dipak Mishra, C.J., issued a notice to the centre and the state to submit its responses within four weeks. Moreover, the NGO asked for the formation of internal Complaints Committees to hear cases of sexual harassment at work. For workplaces with fewer than 10 employees, or when the employer himself is accused, district officers are required to form ‘local committees’ to receive the complaints under the law’s Section 6 of the Act. The Bench sought reports on constitution of such committees.
- Amendments to the Bye-laws of Producers Guild of India (PGI)
On Wednesday October 17, 2018, the Producers Guild of India called for “Extraordinary General Meeting” and made amendments to their bye-laws, leading to the inclusion of two main provisions-
First, all the existing and new member will be asked to sign a declaration stating that they have implemented the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 as required by law and it has to be signed within a period of 30 days after the receiving of such declaration.
Second, the guild has the right to expel any member, if he/she found to be indulged in sexual harassment by its Internal Complaints Committee.
Such initiative has been taken while taking into consideration the women safety as it is utmost important to protect their dignity and create a healthy environment for them to work.
- Strengthening Laws against Defamation
The worldwide movement has its own detrimental repercussions. There have been plenty of false allegations. In order to prevent further false allegations, the defamation laws have been strengthen as well. The laws against defamation in India, states that the women who are unable to prove their allegations, are liable for defamation, with imprisonment to a term which may get extended up to two years.
The #Me Too movement has helped many women to raise their voice against the sexual harassment on one hand. It has also led to a huge amount of false allegations on the other hand. The laws of the country couldn’t be gender biased. That’s why while keeping a check on the implication of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2018, the government has also strengthen the laws against Defamation so that the image of an innocent person is not tarnished with such false allegations.
 AIR 1997 SC 3011.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.