In what began as a tool to empower women against the alleged exploiters and the powerful bullies, the #MeToo movement gave one section (women clan) of the society a platform to take on the oppressors in influential positions. The movement proved to be a boon for feminism in the modern-day world where women take strong stances by openly speaking up against their alleged harassers who put them under compromising situations. Having begun with more than 70 women speaking up against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a global #MeToo movement took off. And in no time, the unprecedented force of the movement captured global attention and traveled to India, enabling women to speak up against their oppressors on social media platforms.
What started as a tool for women against their bullies, in no time turned to apparent misuse by some. While social media provides a huge platform for women to be able to express their miseries and find support and solidarity, it, on the other hand, also serve as a medium to mold the facts and malign the image of the other party even before the trial, merely to attract some views and likes and in some cases to prefer one party over the other. While we are all very well aware of the true power of social media, that is influence, we tend to believe in whatever is served to us without questioning the authenticity of the content. Accusations without evidence circulate in no time and social media forms the bias of the public opinion.
Today the case filed against a veteran journalist, a celebrated editor and author-turned-politician MJ Akbar by Priya Ramani is in the court and has been denied by the former, calling it a vendetta. The false and fabricated web of lies and allegations against Mr. Akbar have become a viral fever for a section of the society that have tarnished his reputation and goodwill. Galvanized by nuances and hatred, the accusations have caused irreparable damage to MJ Akbar’s image as a prominent personality in the country.
Claiming that the #MeToo allegations against him are baseless and contain no truth, MJ Akbar filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the final verdict of which is yet to be announced by the court. Though, Priya Ramani acquitted of the defamation case, does not give any right to the media platforms to put their own version of the court judgement and paint a biased view to the public. There is no way that distorted facts be used against someone to malign their reputation and goodwill.
There are certain points where we really need to put our attention upon. Priya Ramani in 2018 accused MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct that happened 20 years ago when he served as a celebrated journalist. The piece Ramani wrote in the Vogue magazine in context with the #MeToo movement did not mention MJ Akbar’s name because she herself admitted that “he didn’t do anything”. Also, the #MeToo allegations came at a time when the political system of the country was preparing for the 2019 election. So, is this entire #MeToo allegation a fabrication of political vendetta or at what point lies the truth? Were these allegations made without any care or caution to just damage the reputation of Akbar who happened to be Minister of state? What the reality is, has still not been put to us. Defaming an individual without any evidence for the allegations, is a complete violation of his/ her rights.
Many women choose the social media platform to lash out at men to shame them and settle their personal scores. Former Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Sujata Manohar, who was also a part of the bench that formulated the Vishakha guidelines against sexual harassment at workplaces observed the misuse of the #MeToo movement at the hands of several women to settle their personal scores. Making allegations of a personal nature not only engulfs the reputation and career of the innocent but also mitigates the very essence of the very powerful and important movement.
Furthermore, a lot of women just go social and post their stories but refuse to take any legal action their oppressor, which causes shaming men on the social media, causing harm to their reputation but somehow lacks ingenuity. No doubt, it takes a lot of courage for women victims to come out in public and speak out their case. It takes her to relive her ordeal to get support from the public and most importantly seek justice. But the ingenuity must be retained, then only can the justice be served.
In a world where bogus claims take upon the centre stage with euphoric representation by the media platforms, it has become easier to take on such important and powerful tools and cause defamation for settling personal scores. The case of #MeToo against MJ Akbar cannot be given justice without any genuine evidences that prove the allegations by Priya Ramani. The justice isn’t biased for a particular section of the society and in a democratic country which runs on the rule of law, playing personal vendetta on such big platforms must be taken into consideration and be punished for tarnishing the image of a reputed person for settling personal scores.