Despite what ought to be obvious, but is not to all too many obtuse males (and unfortunately, some females as well), women have the same capabilities as men to ensure success in their careers. Despite this, in too many workplaces across the globe, there is an invisible cord that holds back women employees from advancing in their careers with the speed of their male colleagues. At the workplace, issues such as gender have as little place as considerations of caste, religion or region ought to merit when discussions take place on which employee to promote and whom to dismiss. Productivity and harmony in the workplace would have been enhanced, had the activities that have been made public by women across the world, not taken place. A Harvey Weinstein or a Bill Cosby, who leverages his position and his wealth to take advantage of women who enter into their professional orbit, deserves the obloquy that has now fallen on them. In India, it is unfortunate that some political parties placed regional identities above the call for justice of a young actress in a case involving a well-known film star from a western Indian state. In this case, it soon became clear that the actress in question had drawn attention of both peers as well as the police to what she described were moves by the actor to take advantage of her, and yet she was ignored. However, she raised the flag of protest immediately after the actions that she found objectionable took place. Had Christine Blasey Ford placed on record what she made public after a lapse of over three decades about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and assuming that her recollection of the identity of her attacker from so many years ago was correct, the US Supreme Court would still be without its eighth Associate Justice. Her ordeal is a warning to victims of harassment and worse to ensure a record of their travail, ideally in the form of a complaint to the authorities. In India, there are now numerous avenues open to women who believe they have been dealt with in ways that may not be possible to openly describe, and such means would get availed of rather than be pushed away into the indefinite future or never. At the same time, there needs to be a sufficient bar of proof (even if circumstantial) before allegations get acted upon by the authorities or by others. The charge of molestation and gross and indecent disrespect for the female sex is not one that ought to be lightly made, and care needs to be taken to sift from the allegations those that are inventions designed for collateral purposes. After having freely given consent, some women retrospectively withdrawing it, sometimes after decades, does not seem entirely kosher. After all, while abuse of power combined with a lack of ethics may severely affect the life of an innocent victim, a charge of being a predator may destroy the future of a man, and hence should not be lightly made, especially because of ego or differences over political ideology.
Subject to this necessary caveat, the “MeToo” movement is a necessary crusade to make the world, especially the workplace, safer for women. The world needs to celebrate the tens of thousands of survivors who have recounted the horror and shame they faced at the hands of predators who passed off in society as gentlemen. There is no place in a decent and civilised society for those males who force their attentions and bits and pieces of their person on their female friends and colleagues. That a movement that had its origins in the US is now in full flower in India is evidence that the two most populous democracies of the world are converging in the sphere of values (and hopefully in matters of economic growth as well, although this seems distant as of now). Those with boxed-up minds who judge human beings by their diet, dress, lifestyle, religion or language should be made to understand their toxicity in a country where more than seven out of ten citizens are still very or relatively young. It is the young who are driving the present movement, just as it is often the middle-aged who are at the receiving end of revelations about their unsavoury actions of the past. The relationship between a male boss and his female subordinates has to be one of mutual respect, and not get tainted by a perception of the individual in a supervisory position that he can leverage rank and privilege to enforce intimacy on the unwilling. The Sunday Guardian has spoken up in defence of the importance of freedom in diet, faith and lifestyle. It has pointed out that those who travel about in imported limousines and cannot sleep without hearing the hum of an air conditioner look hypocritical and even ridiculous when they rail about the English language, the widespread use and knowledge of which in the country is among the few benefits that British rule brought. This newspaper has backed efforts at transparency and adoption of 21st century rather than 19th or even 20th century values, including recently by the Supreme Court. We take pride in saluting the brave women who have come forward with truthful accounts of persecution. They will help spread the message of gender safety and equality through India’s swelling “MeToo” movement.