#MeToo in India

I am disturbed by the number of posts in the social media against various celebrities be it a minister or an actor or a lyricist or a musician in the past week or 10 days. This is not a very good sign of civility in public life if the news feed is in fact correct and it is time to act against such persons whoever be them. This does not create any aspersion on the genuineness of the allegations made but a detailed investigation only can bring out the truth and the malady surrounding these instances can be addressed through coercive or legislative pronouncements.

On going through the history of such incidents, there is one thing which is clear for the fact that the person who is alleged to have committed the act is in a position of advantage and can wield influence on the career or life of the person affected. With the multitude of households having both partners working and the children are left to handle themselves, there is a likelihood of the children taking any one who cares for them (or appear to care for them) into confidence and keep them as their advisor or mentor. In such an event, if the advisor or mentor is not a genuine person, he may use the proximity and trust to his advantage and lure them for some extra acts which is offensive. This can be avoided if the parents spend enough quality time with such children and make them very comfortable and come out with all the facts to them without fear of retribution. This demands lot of patience and openness on the parents and the children should have a faith developed to share any deviation without hiding. Definitely this can avoid a third person entering into the life of the child without the knowledge of the parents.

In respect of legislative provisions for avoiding such instances, the Companies in India are mandated to constitute an Internal Complaints committee (ICC) comprising of female members from their employees and also consisting of female members from NGO / Govt. organizations catering to women welfare. The committee should meet and take cognizance of any complaint lodged with them and enquire both the parties and initiate action. The law also mandates minuting such actions and report the same in specified forums. This act not only covers the employees but also extended agencies like contractors, suppliers and customers who encounter the Company in any fashion whatsoever. The constitution of the committee should be publicized across the company in prominent places and every employee should be aware of the provisions of this law and the powers of the committee.

The above committee can be effective only if there is enough courage on the employees to report an incident without fear and law made it very friendly for the complainant and there is no management representation to bring bias into the system. However, we have also witnessed incidents which are reported only to malign somebody of misconduct to gain some mileage and as the law is at its nascent stages, this is unavoidable. However, the members of the committee should also be having enough wherewithal to handle the complaints diligently and bring out the truth in correct perspective.

Definitely this sort of action is followed in the government organizations as well and hence the only area in which this is not structured may be self employed professionals against whom only we are seeing so many complaints. If the government is able to make a self-regulatory mandate for such professionals, this can be avoided and the only point of concern is the cost of administering such a structured mechanism which is possible in bigger organization.

It is also relevant to note that the privacy is not respected either by the persons interacting in the social media or the news channels or papers blasting everything out of proportion. The creativity of various individuals is exhibited violently in all the above forums without waiting for an investigation into the reality or truth underlying such allegations. It is also to be seen that repeated forwarding and addition to the post create a frenzy of allegations which becomes more viral and attacking. Even the investigating agencies cannot do much in the situation as the truth is getting distorted and blown out of context in some situations. Even though we are a free democracy with freedom  of speech and expression, there should be a personal urge for every citizen to maintain restraint and not add something which is not genuine and only this sort of behavior can result in better justice to the victims. Normally when such discipline is not maintained, we the public without even an iota of bad intent does harm to the victim who is getting negative publicity and maligned in public as also give credence to the perpetrator of the crime to use the same media to get themselves out unscathed.

The misbehavior against any person is condemnable and should be handled and punished stringently and to facilitate that the law and justice should be properly crafted and proper reporting should happen without frenzy and sufficient restraint to handle social media by all the citizens. Last but not least, this problem is not gender specific and diversity should be respected and given prominence.

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