India: men and

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India: men and #MeToo


Nilanjana Bhowmick writes about why Indian men feel unsafe with today's #MeToo.

In October 2018, there was a second wave of #MeToo reported in Indian newsrooms and it took down a few top editors and journalists. Then there was a new post, ‘When people believe women who accuse men of sexual attacks without evidence, no man is safe.’

The post asked mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters to support Indian men to save them from women who won’t stop saying #MeToo.

The post was also on social media and said, ‘I am not safe. Your husband isn’t safe. Your father isn’t safe. Your son isn’t safe. Your grandson isn’t safe. Your male friends aren’t safe.’

The post put women against women. It hid behind women to protect them if they were named. In India’s second #MeToo wave, women especially from the media and entertainment, spoke out against rich, powerful men.

In June 2018 a global survey showed India was the worst and most dangerous country for women for sexual violence. Reported cases of assaults against women rose by 83 per cent between 2007 and 2016, but men are feeling unsafe. But do they understand what that means? An accusation that can be challenged does not make you unsafe.

I was seven when our family doctor in his late eighties abused me. He always examined me alone in his room. My parents trusted him. He was old enough to be my great-grandfather. But his terrible face and his hands all over my body still give me nightmares. I am now 42. I am still uncomfortable about being alone with a doctor. That’s what unsafe feels like.

I was in my late teens when a man at least 10 years older than me abused me again. He called me his ‘little sister’. I will never forget the shock when he grabbed me from behind. I still do not trust men who try to make me their sister.

Then there were many times when I was sixteen and men pressed up against me on the way to college on public transport. Co-workers brushed past me in work places, making sexual jokes, and talking about how tight or short my clothes were. It’s amazing that I am still out here, and mostly OK. There are women who are not OK. They have lost jobs and chose the safety of home over the workplace. They have been depressed and affected mentally for life. Some could not keep themselves or their young daughters safe from more serious assaults. Remember the terrible murder of a Delhi student in 2012? Those men raped Jyoti Singh and abused her with a metal rod and threw her from a moving bus to die. Do you still feel unsafe?

Indian men are scared not because they fear false accusations. There’s no lasting shame for men in our societies. They are scared because for the first time they fear what will happen to them after their planned and their thoughtless actions.

It is clear from #MeToo that Indian women won’t be scared or shamed into submission any longer. Social media gives them a voice, an audience, and a sisterhood. #HimToo is as stupid as #NotAllMen. Don’t give the hard work of protecting your fears to the victims, your mothers, daughters, sisters.

Feel sorry for yourselves, if you must. But understand this is how women in this country have felt for years. For the first time you feel their fears.

Welcome to the other half of the sky.

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