In October 2018, almost a year to the day after the #MeToo movement erupted in the US around film producer Harvey Weinstein, allegations of sexual harassment and assault flooded India. Women began recounting tales from years or even decades earlier, often at great risk to their reputations and safety.
For five of India’s most prominent accusers, the price has been steep.
A young victim of alleged rape by a lawmaker attempted to burn herself outside the residence of her state's chief minister, after her father died in police custody. A high-profile journalist has been sued for defamation by the man she accused. Another journalist says she has had trouble finding work. And a Bollywood actress says she feels her allegations led to real change in India, though the fallout since she first made them more than a decade ago contributed to her decision to relocate to the US, exhausted.
As for the accused men, some have remained in their jobs. Others said their reputations and careers were hurt by the allegations. Most deny wrongdoing and a few have fought back in court.
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Despite the mixed record of India’s #MeToo movement, some women feel they are witnessing the beginnings of long-overdue legal and cultural shifts. “#MeToo helped some people realize how widespread molestation and harassment are,” said Karuna Nundy, an advocate in India’s Supreme Court who has worked on rape cases.
“I can’t be anything but hopeful,” Nundy added. “It is these interventions that change not just the life of the individual, but also change the system for everybody else.”