#MeToo in India: Activist collective organises public hearing in Chennai; MP Nirmala, TM Krishna, others on the panel

As a slew of #MeToo allegations from India emerged on social media over the past few weeks, the second wave of the movement is getting stronger every day. Starting with entertainment and media industry, the movement has now spread to other sectors including education, tech, and the arts. Many have come forward with a wide spectrum of stories ranging from sexual harassment to inappropriate behaviour and misuse of power dynamics.

Now, in an attempt to take the discourse around gender, sexuality and abuse further into the mainstream, a public hearing "to open the socio-political discourse around #MeToo" is being organised in Chennai on 21 October by an activist collective, Ek Potlee Ret Ki.

The three-hour long discourse have panelists including MP Nirmala (Commissioner of Child's Rights Commission, Tamil Nadu), professor Semmalar (social activist, Dalit scholar, and educationalist), Dr Aishwarya Rao (health professional, social worker and expert on persons with disabilities and gender minorities), Salma (Tamil poet, author and politician), TM Krishna (Carnatic musician and public intellectual), Swetha Sudhakar (transgender activist) and Poongkhulali (gender law practitioner).

In a statement by the activist collective on the public hearing, it said, "Harassment is often more than just physical repression. It is a manifestation of power and persons in power who abuse their positions should be bought to account. We need to create a safe space for survivors to champion this cause. Join us to strengthen this platform through robust discourse."

The statement asked others to share their stories, give suggestions or stand in solidarity. It further added, "Time is ripe to strike this rotting system of violence and the silence that surrounds it."

A Facebook post on the collective's page notes, "Our aim is to now raise a collective conscience around sexual harassment and abuse. Our efforts to put together a public hearing and consultative process is not to name and shame but to constructively look at how to address this societal lacuna."

Talking to The Times of India, Radhika Ganesh, founder of Ek Potlee Ret Ki, said that the collective was moved to organise this public hearing as survivors of sexual abuse and harassment have been reaching out to them. "The idea now is to go beyond individual accusations and look at the larger environment of violence that prevails and the silence we have internalised," she added.

TM Krishna also asked people to join the effort in a video on Facebook. Describing the past few weeks as "very difficult", he said that a change was needed and that "Chennai is showing rest of India the way" forward. "This concerns every one of us," he concludes.

The event will be held at Dr MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science For Women on 21 October from 3 pm to 6 pm.


Updated Date: Oct 21, 2018 11:31 AM

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