Published: 26th October 2017
#HimToo: Academia has mixed reaction to Raya Sarkar's list of naming and shaming sexual harassers
It has had its share of criticism and it's share of appreciation but what do the students and teachers who belong to the system think about this list.
Ever since the Harvey Weinstein allegations started to come out and the #metoo campaign followed, the internet world has become a platform for a lot of sexual harassment victims to come out. The latest 'list' of sexual abusers to go viral is compiled by the US-based law student Raya Sarkar. Students across the country have continued to add names to the list over the last 24 hours. A total of 60 names are on the list as of Wednesday.
The list contains the country and state name, the type of profession, the name of the educational institution, name if the accused, their designation, the number of victims, the status of the complaint, the resolution and the year of violence. Sarkar has stated in her FB posts that a majority of the allegations were made by victims themselves, save a few who gave second-hand accounts.
The public naming and shaming initiative has garnered a mixed response from the academia- while some are applauding the brave stance taken by the women, others think that without substantial evidence it was wrong to publicly name the accused.
Social Media justice: Raya Sarkar who has been compiling the list was also blocked from FB for a few hours.
"We have fought for an autonomous body to deal with sexual harassment in JNU. All Universities and college have to have such an autonomous body. I believe that a well functioning system has to be in place in an academic space but I don't think that publicly releasing a list of names accused of sexual harassment can help in any way. We stand with all the victims but feel that it's best to file a complaint an then if they face any barriers then we'll definitely help get their justice," said Geeta Kumari, President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union.
Revathi K L, a former student of Azim Premji University who is currently pursuing her Masters in Netherlands said she was horrified to find so many prominent names on the list. She agreed that it was absolutely important to throw light on sexual abuse in campuses but also felt that social media might not be the right platform. "There has to be a thorough investigation and a mechanism to verify the claims," she added.
While many of the professors listed are mostly from social science backgrounds, it's no secret that sexual harassment is widely prevalent in the science field too. Alekhya Kilambi is a PhD student at the Cancer Institute in Mumbai, her first reaction reflected those mentioned above, but she had something entirely different to say, " I think this list was necessary, these perpetrators usually remain sequestered. It's not just about shaming, even if someone gets thrown out of the job, it's usually always covered up and they get appointed elsewhere. The behaviour continues the same way because the system itself is so deep and systematic."
"Sexual harassment is overlooked, trivialised, deliberately covered up, it's obscured to the extent that women can't even tell sometimes whether something counts as harassment or not because they are often forced to question their own truths."- Alekhya Kilambi, a PhD scholar
"Sexual harassment is overlooked, trivialised, deliberately covered up, it's obscured to the extent that women can't even tell sometimes whether something counts as harassment or not because they are often forced to question their own truths. The perpetrators need to know they can't be let off the hook and potential victims should also know who to stay away from," she explained.
Dhruv Tejaswi, a lawyer and a former student of Delhi University, currently based in London pointed out that it took 23 years for a Sexual Harassment law to even be formulated. "Since it is a very precarious relationship of power between a student and a professor, it may destroy a student aspiring to make a career in the academics or otherwise. Students are scared to complain as members of the committee are mostly colleagues of the professor, and there is no democratic representation of student representatives or non-teaching staff in these committees," he explained.
#Metoo to #HimToo: The founder of the #MeToo campaign, Tarana Burke lent her support to Raya Sarkar.
"Having said that, at this juncture, we only have a list of names. There is no information whatsoever about the circumstances, the time frame of events, nature of harassment or any such information. This is what is the difference between the investigative journalism by New York Times in the Harvey Weinstein’s case versus the naming and shaming campaign by one person on a Facebook post. Raya Sarkar perhaps has statements by the victims and even some evidence of the screenshots of messages or email exchanged by the professors. I am not discrediting any of the statements by the victims at all. However, when presented with just a list of names questions are bound to raise," Tejaswi said.
While there are the pros and cons of whether public shaming, the one thing that is similar about the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the #metoo campaign and this latest list is that one account of harassment also seems to encourage others to follow. The stigma to telling one's story is reduced one story at a time, something that TISS student Gideon Lubin Balasingham noticed,"We should focus on how anonymous allegations encourage other victims to speak up. Undoubtedly, this list should be followed up with legal action, which is being done anyway. However, we should not discard victims' stories even if they chose to remain anonymous.
He added,"Further, this is just a list of professor need to be wary about. Shouldn't the accused be more worried about their reputation and take a little onus to come up with clarifications rather than entirely shifting the onus to the victims to prove them guilty?" he questioned.