India’s #MeToo Story – An Everyday Reality

There is a new revolution brewing and it is taking the world by storm.  The #MeToo movement is gaining momentum with each passing day, shocking, shaming and empowering people in its way.

India’s #MeToo chapter was a series of fits and starts, lacking in both support and outrage. But one year since it all began in the far West, the movement has finally picked pace. Women, as well as men, are now fearlessly calling out their abusers, exposing the rampant abuse of power and the culture of silence.

For now, though, the accusations seem mostly restricted to the world of film, fashion and journalism. But what about the others who are outside of these professions, away from the media glare? How deep-rooted is the issue of sexual harassment? To understand this, Piplsay reached out to men and women across the country with a quick survey. The 36000 responses we received clearly underlines the need for serious introspection and action.

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It’s all-pervasive

In India, like in many other countries, sexual harassment is almost a given. Youngsters particularly girls are routinely objectified and harassed without any fear of consequences. The fact that a huge percentage of respondents faced or knew of such harrowing ordeals reveals that sexual harassment is more widespread and commonplace that we truly realize.

Over 5 out of 10 women have faced sexual harassment at least once with those in the North and East having to deal with it the most

North India seems most prone to sexual harassment with over 70% people also knowing friends or family members who have been harassed. East follows closely with 69% while West comes last with 58% people in the know.

Unfortunately though, sexual harassment also has varying degrees of acceptance. Inappropriate physical touch or sexually colored comments are not taken seriously and thus fail to evoke strong reactions. This may also be a reason why they are also the most common types of sexual harassment one usually faces.

Displaying a big shift in attitudes and culture, workplace seems to have become the new breeding ground for sexual harassment

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Workplace Woes

Offices shockingly overtake public spaces as the most unsafe place across all regions except South. Workplace harassment gets mostly dictated by power dynamics, where a supervisor is in direct control of a subordinate’s career. Demeaning gestures like caressing, groping, hugging often get disguised as friendly or even paternal. Besides, late-night texting, sexual discussions or external meetings on work pretext have all become subtle forms of harassment.

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While telling off a co-worker is relatively easier, fear of retaliation and public shaming often weigh in when it comes to supervisors. This is one of the main reasons why globally harassment cases largely go unreported. Another possible reason for underreporting is also the fact that employees themselves are not very clear on what constitutes sexual harassment as also their workplace rights.

But in a positive sign, the Piplsay survey shows that Indians are now reporting sexual harassment with increasing frequency

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However, given the often indifferent attitude, it is no surprise that most respondents seem unsatisfied with the outcome. The scope for concrete action lessens further in the absence of a formal complaint. Even today, many organizations don’t have the mandated internal complaints committee for grievance redressal.

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One can only hope that the ongoing discourse will force companies to rethink their attitude and policies.

The #MeToo movement has been nothing short of a catharsis, though it has been triggering for some. Nonetheless, the campaign is sparking conversations and setting off changes that were long overdue. The time is now for people to acknowledge and act or else it’s #TimesUp for those who don’t react.

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