A year after the MeToo movement founded by Tarana Burke shook Hollywood in 2017, a similar wave started surging across India when women from across multiple walks of life started coming forward to name their alleged harassers. What started as a call out against workplace harassment snowballed into a national debate with some of the biggest and most shocking revelations involving top government, media and film industry veterans. The debate did not remain limited to just these industries. In the following years, women from across sectors like tech, corporate, academia, the art world and most recently sports have come out in public to talk about their experiences.
Here is a timeline of some of the key moments of how the MeToo movement unfolded in India:
2017: Indian law student Raya Sarkar compiles a list that contained the names of 70 alleged sexual harassers in academia in India. The document was circulated widely on social media and generated a lot of controversy and debate. The list contained the names of several renowned academics across reputed institutions who were accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. The accusations included incidents of assault, harassment, and inappropriate behaviour. Many of the accused were prominent figures in their fields. The list became a significant turning point for the debate on sexual harassment in the workplace in India and became a turning point for MeToo movement that took off full strength in India the next year.
October 2018: Actress Tanushree Dutta accuses actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the set of a film in 2008. The incident sparked a wave of accusations against prominent figures in the Indian entertainment industry on social media.
October 2018: In the same month, journalist Priya Ramani accused former Union minister MJ Akbar of sexual harassment while she was working under him at an Asian Age newspaper in the late 1990s. Akbar denied the allegations and sued Ramani for defamation.
October-November 2018: Many other women came forward with their own stories of harassment, including actresses Sandhya Mridul, Rachel White, and Saloni Chopra, and journalist Ghazala Wahab.
January 2019: The Delhi High Court began hearing Akbar's defamation case against Ramani.
February 2019: The National Commission for Women (NCW) conducted an inquiry into the allegations against Akbar.
April 2019: The NCW concluded that Akbar is guilty of sexual harassment and recommended legal action.
August 2019: Akbar resigned as Union minister and filed a defamation case against Ramani and others who accused him of harassment.
February 2021: A Delhi court acquitted Ramani of defamation charges, saying that she was speaking the truth when she accused Akbar of harassment.
The MeToo movement in India brought to light numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault and helped to raise awareness of the issue in the country. However, progress has been slow in terms of holding perpetrators accountable, with many cases still tied up in legal battles.
Nevertheless, the movement paved the way for discussion and reforms of workplace safety and harassment laws.
2018: Following the #MeToo backlash, the Indian government introduced several amendments to the POSH Act in 2018 including expanding the definition of sexual harassment to include incidents outside of the workplace. It also allowed for extending the time limit for filing complaints from three to six months and allowing complainants to file complaints electronically.
2019: The POSH Act is further amended to include provisions for the protection of complainants and witnesses, including providing anonymity and protection against victimisation.