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#MeToo: The trial no longer silences women, say activists | India News

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As journalist Priya Ramani was acquitted in a defamation case brought by MJ Akbar, whom she had accused on social media of sexual harassment, Twitter user @penpencildraw put it succinctly: “In a landmark ruling, the Indian court it does not punish survivors of sexual harassment ”.
The court emphasized that the right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of a woman’s right to life and dignity, and that she has the right to file her complaint on “any platform of her choice” and “even after decades” .
The law on sexual harassment in the workplace has clearly defined time limits for reporting. They must be presented within three months of the last incident, although the sexual harassment commission has scope to make a special provision and extend it, says lawyer Sunieta Ojha. The widespread fear that this lawsuit will allow stale claims to pile up is unfounded, he says. The CrPC also allows the courts to extend the statute of limitations in the interest of justice. Sexual harassment is also included in the IPC, where there is no statute of limitations, so technically a case can be filed at any time. However, this has little chance of success given the difficulty of providing evidence in these cases, he says.
Reports of sex crimes by temporary prescription can dissuade justice. “In many cases of violation or Pocso, our concern is that the complaint will arrive soon, because there is a golden hour of testing and the track can get cold after a long period. But getting to trial takes so long that this can happen anyway, ”says attorney Karuna Nundy. What’s more, it’s classic to complain late in such cases, he says.
“Our courts must catch up with the idea that when people are harassed, it often takes time for them to gather their cognitive, emotional and social resources,” he says. However, in this case, Ramani did not seek to prosecute Akbar for sexual harassment. She spoke her truth on social media, along with a cascade of testimonials from other women during the #MeToo movement. It was Akbar who sued her for defamation, and “the effect was to chill the voices of women who spoke about their experience, to show how sexual harassment was rampant in all fields,” says Ojha. Remember, the event Ramani described took place at a time when there were no Vishakha guidelines on protection from sexual harassment. The law was created 17 years later, in 2013. She could not have sought a remedy even if she wanted to.
Women are often forced to remain silent about sexual harassment because they fear retaliation, losing their jobs or other forms of harassment, says attorney Vrinda Grover. The lawsuit notes that this problem cannot be tackled in a straightjacket of rules and technicalities. It focuses on “whether or not the system provided an opportunity to speak,” he says.
He is no longer silencing women or saying they cannot speak out in the public sphere about sexual harassment simply because time has passed, says feminist activist Kavita Krishnan. “It will assure women that if they speak out, the defendant is less likely to use defamation as a weapon to silence, now that there is a precedent,” he says.
Despite the attention and media support Ramani received, Krishnan is not overly optimistic. Social media attention is fickle, cases of sexual misconduct continue to fail, he says. It takes sustained feminist mobilization and legal intervention, grassroots activism, for things to change.

Times of India

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