#MeToo is a scream for help as well as a call to action — by women from all walks of life, united in their demand to end rape culture in general and sexual harassment at workplace in particular. The #MeToo tracker is a collation of all the names that have been accused of sexual harassment so far in India in the wake of the 2018 movement.
The Union Government has not yet implemented the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India that required the Central Government to give wide-scale publicity to the Supreme Court judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
Justice for women means the right to work, expecting their employers to understand and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, zero tolerance of sexual harassment by employers, providing a mechanism to raise complaints when it happens. When employers fail in their duty to prevent sexual harassment, or even to recognise its existence under their nose, where is the question of ‘due process’?
M J Akbar’s resignation is a testament to the sheer power of the #MeToo movement, and the horror of its stories and experiences. In fact, Akbar tried to emulate this government’s bullying tactic by initially denying all the allegations, and then filing a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, a senior journalist.
It is evident that neither Vishaka guidelines nor The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (‘SHW Act’) were followed by the organisations, as most of the complaints were either not investigated properly, or women could not complain.
We are in a situation where the allegations of sexual harassment are so pervasive — ranging from the judiciary, the legal profession, the newsrooms, the entertainment industry, academia, and politicians — that it would be counterproductive to deal with each case individually. What is required is a commission of inquiry to inquire into the failures of the existing legal systems and the Sexual Harassment Act to prevent the happening of these incidents.
Sridhar Rangayan’s Breaking Free (2015) is a 90-minute documentary on the LGBTQI movement in India until the great heartbreak of the 2013 Supreme Court judgment. Much like the four-part SC judgments, it explores the link between sexuality and love, questions of identity that the LGBTQI peoples have faced, the systemic abuses from family members, society as well as law enforcement agencies, while celebrating the collective will of the people who kept the faith.
Throughout the judgement, the Indian Supreme Court makes a distinction between ‘social’ or ‘majoritarian’ morality and ‘constitutional’ morality. Applying this distinction to the case at hand, the court rejects homophobia and popular sentiments that marginalise and discriminate against those who go against heteronormativity. This judgment has great resonance in Sri Lanka, where at present LGBTQI activists are agitating to strike Section 365 and 365a from the Penal Code, which is akin to Section 377 of IPC.
One of the most fierce and vociferous opposition to LGBTQ+ rights has come from religious lobbies — be it the evangelical Christians in the USA running gay conversion therapy camps, or Baba Ramdev claiming that he can “cure” homosexuality through yoga, or the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. But the premise of human rights and liberty cannot be somebody else’s right to religion.
Section 377, as observed by the Supreme Court in its judgment on September 6, 2018, is, “irrational, indefensible and arbitrary. The majoritarian views and popular morality cannot dictate constitutional rights.” While the outcome of this was a somewhat foregone conclusion, this forward-looking development, is bound to raise other significant issues.
As Section 377 is read down today, we must not forget that ABVA filed the first writ petition to challenge the constitutional validity of Section 377 before Delhi High Court. The petition was dismissed in 1999 for non-prosecution just before Naz Foundation filed its petition in 2001.. On July 2, 2009 the Delhi High Court pronounced its historic judgment by declaring Section 377 unconstitutional, but it was overturned on December 11, 2013 by the Supreme Court on appeals filed by religious and cultural organisations. Today, the Supreme Court course-corrected again.