Firstpost's #MeToo Conversations: Shruti Seth, Harini Calamur and Shunali Khullar Shroff talk consent, harassment and changing attitudes

Firstpost's day-long panel discussions on the #MeTooIndia movement, titled #MeToo Conversations and moderated by award-winning writer Meghna Pant, kicked off at The Habitat, Khar, on Thursday morning (18 October 2018). A select and appreciative audience gathered as professionals from the fields of journalism, law, HR, media and the arts, as well as feminists and those looking to contribute to the discourse, held forth on a number of issues the relatively nascent #MeTooIndia movement has thrown up.

While #MeToo came to India in 2017 with Raya Sarkar's List of Sexual Harassers in Academia (LoSHA), the range of stories to have emerged in this second wave — that dates to 5 October — has been breathtaking. Especially since these stories highlight an array of behaviours — from inappropriate comments to sexual harassment and assault.

 Firstposts #MeToo Conversations: Shruti Seth, Harini Calamur and Shunali Khullar Shroff talk consent, harassment and changing attitudes

Meghna Pant with Shruti Seth, Harini Calamur and Shunali Khullar Shroff

A question that has been raised in the days past is: what constitutes harassment? The debate has raged not just among men and women, but also among women themselves. One viewpoint seems to be that all harassment occurs on a spectrum, and that women should be free to speak out about unwelcome advances just as about assault or rape. Another viewpoint seems to be that bringing up behaviour that occurred on dates or in a toxic relationship doesn't constitute harassment and that speaking about these issues 'trivialises' the accounts of rape and assault survivors.

The first-panel discussion held during the #MeToo Conversations attempted to answer just such questions. Actress Shruti Seth (who has been quite vocal on Twitter about #MeTooIndia), documentary filmmaker Harini Calamur and Shunali Khullar Shroff (who previously worked at the Asian Age) all put forward various perspectives around the issue.

The conversation, guided skilfully by Pant, dwelt on consent, whether a 'bad date' implied harassment in the context of #MeToo, the situations in which such behaviour occurs and how women could address it, and the need to reconcile to the unmasking of men hitherto placed on a pedestal.

Talking about consent, Seth said that although over a period of time, a lot of ideas — a casual remark or a crude joke — have been normalised, while men have never understood what consent it. While Shroff added that the parents too need to be trained in order for their children to understand the concept of consent. She added that it might be a casual remark on someone's part but for her, it is how she perceives it, and react to it, that defines what sexual harassment is and women should be the ones to decide what constitutes as harassment.

Calamur put forward the need for stronger ICCs and better train people on how they can speak up against someone at the top. She talked about how the attitudes have changed and the need for everyone to keep up with the ideas of the day.

The panel ended with questions from the audience, paving the way for the next discussion: on the legal recourse available to survivors.

Follow live updates and video stream from the summit here.

Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 16:53:27 IST