India is one of the most dangerous countries for women to live in. In recent studies it has ranked number one before countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. One of the most disturbing events that contributes to the image of India was the gangrape and murderer on a bus in 2012. An event that made protesters take to the streets and women speak up. And they had the ears and eyes of the world upon them.
But the MeToo-movement did not take off in India until a year after the time of the “global” break out in 2017. Just like in the US, and large parts of the world, it was the naming of powerful men in the entertainment and news business that made the movement expand. On October 4, Mahima Kukreja, tweeted that a named popular comedian had sent her an unwanted dickpic. Other women responded by sharing stories of similar behaviour from the comedian. Earlier the ex-Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta named a film veteran who she accused of sexual misconduct and the allegations helped launch the #MeToo movement further in India.
These events became the starting point for Indian women to start sharing their stories about sexual abuse. Prominent men have been named, for example, the current minister of state for external affairs. Some of the accused have denied all allegations, and a few have apologized, and others have remained silent. Time Magazine writes that India has seen nothing comparable to #MeToo and points out that women who rebuff unwanted advances are at risk of being assaulted, raped, or have acid thrown in their faces. Women are often being exposed to victim-shaming, chauvinism, and an infamously inefficient legal system that usually prevent women from naming the offenders or even reporting the assault. This is not a unique problem for India but there are various levels of injustice within the legal system. The most active women are privileged professionals like journalists, actors and lawyers. They highlight sexual harassment and seize the opportunity to share their stories and to be believed.
India has a grave gender problem in many ways and internet usage is not an assumption. Only about 29% of all internet users in India are female. The “digital gender gap” among internet users in India is far more extreme than the global divide. Globally, 56% of all internet users were men compared to 44% women.
O’Donnell and Sweetman (2018) explains that a gender gap exists in both access to ICTs and through to the very power to contribute, create and control content. Recent data shows that women worldwide are 10 % less likely than men to own a mobile phone. Of course, gender intersects with other categories such as class and race. Therefor we can assume that only some women are heard, but online action can spread and make people engage in other ways to promote their cause.
It is a giant leap forward for women in India to start a debate on these issues and to join the #MeToo-movement. That they can break the taboo and place the shame where it belongs. It means a lot when a large country like India speaks up about inequalities and sexual abuse. The struggle will continue and hopefully the women will find strength and continue to support and empower each other. Praised be.