Brian Banks was a high school football star from Long Beach, California. A stand out football star, Banks was named one of the Rival.com’s “Juniors to watch” for the class of 2003. His hot streak to become one of the countries top football players however came to an end when he was falsely accused of rape charges by his classmate Wanetta Gibson. Faced with a 41 years life sentence, he accepted a plea deal that included 5 years prison, 5 years probation and registering as a sex-offender. Wanetta Gibson and her mother also sued the school claiming that the campus was not a safe environment and won a $1.5 million settlement.
Years later, in March 2011, Gibson confessed in presence of attorney, that she had fabricated the story. When the school sued Gibson for the $1.5 million she unlawfully received as a settlement, Gibson went into hiding. A football star in making was robbed of the prime years of his career. A school was deprived of million dollars which could be used for the betterment of the students. All because the decision to punish the accused was biased by sympathy towards women and the burden of proving not guilty was on the innocent.
On 23rd Aug 2015, a college student from Delhi, Jasleen Kaur posted a photo on Facebook of a man on Royal Enfield named Saravjeet Singh, accusing him of harassing her at a traffic signal. She accused him of making obscene comments about her and claimed that none of the 20 other people waiting on the traffic signal came to her rescue. The social media post received millions of likes, comments and shares and Jasleen Kaur instantly was hailed as the “brave girl” on the internet. Celebrities came to applaud her. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulated her by saying that the girls of Delhi should follow her and speak up against such an unacceptable act. She was awarded 5000 rupees by the Deputy Commissioner of Police for her bravery.
On the flip-side, Saravjeet Singh was in the headlines as a ‘pervert and a harasser’. He was arrested and booked under Sections 354A (punishment for sexual harassment) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC. Soon after this, an eyewitness Vishwajeet Singh came in support of Saravjeet and vouched for his innocence. The witness also confirmed that it was Jasleen who started to abuse and misbehaved with Saravjeet verbally. “This case is a mental stress to me, I have been going to the court for the last three years and nothing has come out of it till now. My life has changed since the time of this case” tells Saravjeet. “ the court proceedings were delayed as Jasleen did not attend any of the 13 hearings so far.”
In the past 18 months, over 400 CEOs and top executives were accused of sexual harassment. Most of which had to resign from their positions even before any proof of their misconduct was established. Just few days ago, India’s most promising internet entrepreneur Binny Bansal, who co-founded the $20 billion e-commerce behemoth Flipkart had to resign over personal misconduct charges from a former Flipkart employee, which he had a consensual affair with in the past that later went sour.
An abusive relationship is not #MeToo. An affair gone bad is not #MeToo. A man trying to flirt with you is not #MeToo. A consensual relationship that fetched you benefits at one time is not #MeToo in retrospect. The #MeToo movement is a very powerful and an important one, and it should be used in a way that it’s importance is not diluted.
Does Nana Patekar deserve to be publicly shamed on the accusations made by Tanushree Dutta? Not until any truth is established. With his charitable foundation Naam Fountation, Nana Patekar is helping countless families of the farmers who has committed suicide in drought prone areas in Maharashtra, while he could rather spend the time enjoying the glamour like the other celebrities of Bollywood. Don’t get me wrong, doing charity does not grant anyone a right to harass women. However, by shaming someone before the accusations against them are proved, we risk them losing faith in humanity.
The purpose of this article is not to only list out the false accusations of #MeToo cases, but it is to make you understand how powerful this movement is and how cautiously we must use it. Media agencies should stop behaving like a teenager and post whatever they see/ hear in the pursuit of “Viral content”, and act responsibly, write about it only after sufficient investigation and evidences in hand.
With the vast penetration of internet & social media, our like, comments and shares have become so very powerful and we should use them with caution. As the popular movie quote goes, “with great powers, comes great responsibilities”.