I truly did not want to write my very special weekly Gulf News column on #MeToo. My identity to me and to the world has always been that of an investigative journalist and a television anchor, who specialises in hard news and pulls no punches when interviewing top politicians and newsmakers.
But when harassment is all pervasive, virtually as much part of the atmosphere as the air you breathe, how long can you keep quiet?"
All women, especially those who work, have faced it. It remains your dirty little secret after you have conquered all possible mountains. And, while the whisper network among women has always existed, the time has come to out these entitled predators.
The nauseating sexism, reeking of thousands of years of patriarchy, brushes aside a young actress’s allegation of sexual harassment, by declaring: “He is a good man; see all that he has done for charity.” Or worse, the other excuse that seeks to label her religion; her comparative lack of professional success and brand her as an attention seeker is pure drivel.
Who made the rule that only a successful actress can legitimately complain about sexual harassment? After all, one of the men she has accused is a flop film maker.
Nana Patekar and Tanushree Dutta
If Tanushree Dutta, who blew the whistle on the alleged sexual harassment by Nana Patekar and the alleged sleazy comments by Vivek Agnihotri, is at the receiving end of legal notices, it shows that there is still no zero tolerance to sexual harassment. Dutta has since lodged an FIR against Nana Patekar.
Aishwarya Rai also went public on the physical violence she faced at the hands of her then boyfriend Salman Khan, but nothing happened. Khan continues to be a superstar and is emboldened enough today to brush aside questions on Dutta’s allegations with a snigger.
Salman Khan with Aishwarya Rai in the movie 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam'
Was Rai a flop actor?
These kind of nonsensical excuses and actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan shying away from taking a stand in public says more about them than Dutta. And ironically, Aishwarya Rai is now Bachchan’s daughter-in-law.
Sexual harassment is so rampant that R.K. Pachauri, former executive vice chairman of TERI, who loves to describe himself as a “Nobel laureate” and who was on the Prime Minister’s council for climate change, got away for years. It took three long years for charges to be slapped against Pachauri last month on September 14 in the trial court.
Despite the serious allegations, Pachauri, who was the chairman of the international panel on climate change, clung on to all his positions for years with no repercussions from even senior women on the TERI board. In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and this was used as a bludgeon by Pachauri, who has a history of alleged serial sexual harassment.
R. K. Pachauri
Take the case of editor and Tehelka promoter Tarun Tejpal who is facing charges of alleged rape in a so called “fast track” court from 2013. We are now nearing the end of 2018 and the hearings still get deferred.
And you still wonder why women don’t speak out?
Tejpal was so privileged and tone deaf that he thought that he could get away with the alleged rape by writing a piece of ornate, disgusting prose where he thought by stepping down from his privileged perch, he was “doing the penance that lacerates”. The case against Tejpal was to conclude in eight months, but it’s now five years and counting.
Tejpal and Pachauri got exposed, but there are countless others in the media, movies and across all workplaces, who think preying on women is part of their privileges. Horror stories abound about particular politicians and lawyers, who use their position of authority to prey on virtually all the women they meet.
Tarun Tejpal speaks with the media upon his arrival at the airport in 2013
I have heard horror stories from colleagues and have a few myself. Not only is #metoo much needed, it is cry of anguish, a catharsis for women who have faced this for so long.
Whether its Brett Kavanaugh who had a meltdown during his confirmation hearings as a justice for life in the Supreme Court in the US, or the horrific way President Donald Trump declared “grab them by the *****” and mocked survivors, it's time women were believed and supported.
Don’t diminish a woman’s account of being harassed.
You have no idea of the kind of courage it takes to go public in a jeering world. “No” needs to mean “no” without equivocation and zero tolerance is precisely that.
Women are angry and have reason to be. All they want is acknowledgment of the pain they have suffered.
Surely that is not too much to ask?
Swati's book “I am a Troll - Inside the BJP’s secret digital army” has received international acclaim. Her twitter handle is @Bainjal.