Consent as a concept is as alien to people as stopping at red traffic lights is to Indian.
When we speak about consent, it means just two things. Loud and clear, plain and simple :
1. No means no
2. Yes means yes
The recent #MeToo movement has gained immense momentum across the world. There are women who have come forward with their stories, there are women who have re visited the horror and the trauma that sexual violence brings with it, there are women who have finally addressed the elephant in the room and that itself is a step forward.
This movement has given a platform to women and their voices that was amiss even in this time and age.
The movement and the sheer guts of these women who have come forward and spoken the hard truth have made figures like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein crumble and reduce to dust.
As in Hollywood, this movement is gaining momentum in India as well. Be it with Tanushree Dutta speaking again about Nana Patekar or actresses coming forward with complaints about Rajat Kapoor and Vikas Bahl or Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhatt stepping down from their positions in AIB.
Anything that takes place and effects masses is often accompanied with some trends. Out of the many, two trends here are interesting to see:
1. Blaming the complainant and character assassination.
2. Believing the woman just because she is a woman.
To my mind, both these approaches take away the objectivity and the fairness from the case in point.
People are supporting Nana Patekar because he works for the welfare of farmers in Maharashtra, because he is a “senior” artist, because he is aligned with a particular political party. People in the same breath are shaming Tanushree Dutta, asking if the scenes with Emran Hashmi were okay, why did she not feel comfortable with Nana touching her ?
What people are missing here is “consent”. The simple fact that a woman might want to be touched or be physically involved as many times as she likes but the times when she says No, its non negotiable. And this, is probably beyond comprehension for many. Because a woman gave consent previously doesn’t mean she has to give consent every single time. Thats the whole point of coining a concept and word like Consent, right?
Another thing that people bring up to shame the complainant is, why were they silent for so long? The simple thing is, sometimes people dont realise they have been violated, sometimes they are scared and sometimes they dont have a platform to speak from. So shaming and rejecting a woman’s claims for her clothes, choice of partners, number of partners, making out scenes on screen and silence is not looking at right or wrong, its simply finding ways to justify our own lopsided judgement.
Coming to believing something because of the gender of the complainant, it is as detrimental to the case as shaming the complainant because of her life choices. An anonymous written statement about a man should be enough to cost him his job, respect and work? Can a picture of a man along with a written account of his supposed ill behaviour be enough grounds to brand a man as a harasser? That is the reason why #BelieveSurvivors is flawed at so many levels. More appropriate stand would be to #ListenToTheSurviviors. Everything cannot be brushed under the carpet of sexual harassment, every misbehaviour isn’t violation of consent. A man might be mighty rude but that doesnt make him sexually oppressive. Similarly, a man might be smooth as butter but might be a sexual offender. Two different things. Separated by a thin line.
What the social media and different social groups are doing is, they are aligning themselves with gender, positions, choices, ideologies and ignoring the only thing that matters in all the cases and that being, the truth.
Every woman who comes forward has the right to speak, complain and put allegations on a person . As a society we need to support their effort, make sure their voices are not muffled and they are not silenced.
Every man who is in question should also be listened to, given a chance to say his piece and not be judged without knowing his side of the story.
Lets not forget one thing. It was never about men vs women, it was never a war of the genders. It was and should be only about justice. And any injustice denied to any man or woman should be strongly condemned.