A year on, #MeToo women still wait for justice

Theatre actor Angela Model speaks to journalist Barkha Dutt about her alleged rape at the hands of thespian Sudipto Chatterjee, during a conference on women's rights in the city on Sunday. DH PHOTO/Akhil Kadidal

A year after the #MeToo movement, the women who gathered courage to name their abusers are only left with regret.

While justice still remains impossible, their careers have suffered long-term damage. They feel the legal and social systems that should have punished their predators have only victimised them more.

“I have had many regrets about going down this path. I have stopped fighting,” actor Sruthi Hariharan, who accused actor-producer Arjun Sarja of sexual misconduct at a film set at the height of the #MeToo movement last year, told a shocked audience at an eight-hour conference on women’s rights and sexuality on Sunday.

Sruthi, who predominantly acted in Kannada language films until October 2018, said she had zero work since she made the allegation.

“One can deal with online abuse because there are no faces, but to be repeatedly called the ‘MeToo Girl’ until that becomes your identity is something not easy to live with,” she added.

The moniker could have been a badge of honour if she had secured justice. But the provisions of IPC Section 354 A — dealing with sexual harassment — is so ineffective that the judges could not deliver decisive judgments, she said.

Recalling the courtroom ordeal, Sruthi said the judge wanted her to report if the accused had touched her. “If he was only verbal, don’t tell us,” the judge told her. “The very definition of sexual harassment has to be viewed differently.” Archaic laws are just one component of why sexual harassment victims don’t often get justice, explained Chinmayi Sripada, the playback singer and dubbing artist who found herself ostracised after she named Tamil poet Vairamuthu of harassing her.

“Women who are prepared to share their stories should also be prepared to be disbelieved,” Chinmayi said. “Police stations don’t stock up rape kits, and companies and organisations don’t have internal complaint committees. What’s required is a policy change.” 

Discussions at the conference revolved around the recent allegation by a 20-year-old Bengali theatre actor, Angela Mondel, who accused thespian Sudipto Chatterjee of rape on October 18. “What kind of justice could we expect? We received so little of it that we’ve no idea what justice we’re entitled to,” Angela said. “The fact that my harasser will think twice about doing this to somebody else, that to me is justice,” she added.

‘Use your chappal’ 

Appearing on stage, the actor’s mother urged women not to stop speaking out against the harassers. “You have a beautiful chappal. Please use it,” she said.

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