The original purpose of #MeToo campaign by American civil rights activist Ms. Tarana Burke was to empower women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women. It was much later in October 2017 that Ms. Alyssa Milano, a renowned American Actress shared a tweet encouraging victims to use the hashtag ‘Me Too’ so as to “raise mass awareness” and bring together the number of women, who have experienced sexual harassment in their lives.
The said campaign immediately attracted the attention of millions of women from across the World, who without understanding the laws of their own Country, openly started naming various men, alleging that the said men had either exploited some of these claimants, when they were minors or anytime thereafter.
Pursuant to this campaign, some women in the United States of America even achieved the desired results when in October 2017, following sexual abuse allegations against Mr. Harvey Weinstein, he was dismissed from his company and even expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
By 31st October 2017 over 80 women had made allegations against the said, Mr. Harvey Weinstein. This further triggered the “#MeToo” social media campaign and many powerful men had a fall from power as a “Weinstein effect”. The New York Times had openly released about 71 names of powerful, famous and influential men who were either fired or had to resign from their posts because they were accused of sexually harassing women at some point or other. During this time even other top Hollywood actors like Mr. Slyster Stallone, Mr. Kevin Spacey, Mr. Dustin Ho man, Mr. Stevan Segal etc. were also pulled up by various women in the United States of America.
Thus whilst most women successfully benefited from the #MeToo Campaign in the United States of America by reporting incidents which “were sometimes more than thirty years old”, in other parts of the World women were instead openly sued for naming men for sexually harassing them “just a few years ago”. In France “MeToo” creator Ms. Sandra Muller was sued for defamation in a similar case. Also in Australia, Mr. Geoffery Rush has immediately sued “The Daily Telegraph” newspaper for accusing him in its article based on Ms. Norivll’s sexual harassment complaint. Earlier in 2012, BBC Newsnight had wrongly linked Lord McAlpine to child sex abuse, without naming him. He sued BBC News light and within 13 days won £185,000 in damages.
Every woman should therefore know that Laws in each Country are different and as such before she chooses to name anyone and report any past incident of sexual harassment, she should have the basic understanding about the laws of her own Country.
Whilst in Connecticut (Northeastern United States) a minor girl has the liberty to report a non-violent Sexual Harassment case within a period of 30 years from the date she attains majority, in Utah (Western United States) a victim of child sexual abuse may file a civil action at any time without any time limit. Similarly as per North Dakota Century Code (Northern region of United States) there is no limitation of the time within which a claim for relief resulting from childhood sexual abuse must be commenced. Also besides various States of America i.e. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington etc. Do not have time limitation to report incidents of Rape. Thus most American Women have extensive legal rights and liberties with regards to reporting Sexual offences, and they therefore at their convenience choose to report incidents even after 30 or 40 years.
Indian women have to know that contrary to the laws of America, they have the legal right and liberty to report sexual offences only within a time period of three years calculated from the date of the incident, therefore they should not get influenced by #MeToo campaign and report any incident which is more than 3 years old. Also they should know that before reporting any incident they should gather sufficient evidence against the offender, as the offender may instead destroy evidence, influence witnesses and/or alternatively sue the woman for defamation.
Indian Women also ought to know that as Indians they have a legal right file an FIR with the Police through any third party (relative/friend etc.) and then instead being a complainant they can be a witness. This way their identity will be fully protected and they will not have to go to the Police Station to file the Complaint. As a Witness the Police are duty bound to personally visit them at the place of their convenience to record their statements. Also the Media is prohibited to name the victim or reveal their identity, therefore they are fully protected.
(The author has been advising and representing various film personalities as an Advocate for almost two decades)