~By Dr. Yavar Ehsan
It’s about time. Kudos to Time. Kudos to the Silence Breakers.
Time magazine quite aptly labels them as ‘Person of the year’, the voices that launched a movement; a movement that earmarks this past year; a recognition, an acknowledgement, perhaps a coming out of the closet that has millions claiming ‘#metoo’, as if a volcano was waiting to erupt.
With due respect to the survivors, thanks to the Weinsteins, the Matt Lauers, the Dustin Hoffmans, and others in the unlikely league of distinguished gentlemen without whom this epidemic may have remained beneath the wrinkled sheets. What is amazing is the finesse, the unflinching and rock-solid image these men and women have been able to portray for decades as if nothing was wrong. Yes, women as well, because we could never have guessed that behind that pretty face lies a torn and tattered spirit that has been trampled upon. An ego that has ebbed far away from the ambits of self-respect and dignity which defines a woman. A beautiful skin so deep that it conceals within, years of abuse and violation. Eyes sexy yet sad that have poured out tears to drench many a handkerchief. I suppose no one was paying attention.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The classical philosophical question argues there is no sound; and by the same logic an abused woman’s cries are not heard.The falling tree may or may not make a sound, but surely it makes a thud sending reverberations far and wide. The silence breakers have surely done that, the finger that was on the lips is now pointing. Aiming at those who for the sake of fulfilling their lust would pay any price monetarily or with their dignity and self-respect. To their credit, this species of men can look you in the eye without a blink or a scintilla of shame or remorse after groping or even raping a woman, as if it was a routine day at work. They are credited with grilling a Bill O’Reilly for acts of shame knowing full well that they are themselves in the same boat. Members of a fraternity so strong that it will protect their brethren from trouble, a bond so firm that it will not let a measly woman tarnish their buddy’s reputation. An empathy so profound that it will not tolerate exposure of a brother’s misdeeds. Woe to those who have let this pass for years without raising their voices. With eyes shut and ears plugged they have in fact killed their egos to women’s abuse.
Fortunately, that silence is broken. The suppressed have arisen. Moss grew on a stone that was sitting for too long, and it started to roll. With the exposure of America’s elite will this impact the mainstream population? Can this stone roll over to India? For the millions of women out there who don’t necessarily get to accuse a Harvey Weinsteinor an RK Pachauri or a Tarun Tejpal and invite media attention, face either being swept under the carpetor told to hush up, if not face worse consequences for speaking out. Even worse off is the lower strata of the Indian society who are probably the most vulnerable to abuse. Neither do they have the courage to raise their voices nor is anyone paying attention.
The legal system may provide avenues of taking the perpetrates to task if at all, however what is challenging is the interim period and being able to cope in an organization or society and continue normal life. Can she have assurance against being looked down upon, against fear of being framed or falsely accused by the high and mighty, and protection of her next pay-check. Even if she can bail herself out of this ordeal in one piece, would she be able to find another respectable job? Will another employer be willing to hire a ‘trouble maker’? Unfortunately, that’s quite unlikely in the world we live in today.
Society, colleagues, neighbours, RWAs need to rise and stand up collectively. There is no greater power than an awakened people’s movement. Companies that do not have a sensitive complaints handling committee need to wake-up and smell the coffee. Specific laws need to be perhaps publicized in organizations identifying appropriate complaint mechanisms. More importantly, measures for protecting the rights and dignity of silence breakers from the after effects needs institutionalization.