There is nothing surprising about the fact that sexual violence - harassment, abuse, assault - is rampant in all walks of life. The recent ‘Me Too’ campaign on social media, where thousands of people (mainly women) came forward to share their stories of facing violence, reiterated that the problem is widespread; it also reminded us that there is a larger, silent majority. It reminded us that it’s not easy to talk about gender based violence, even in informal settings, let alone file police complaints and pursue justice - or some semblance of it.
Now, a Facebook list compiled by lawyer and anti-caste activist Raya Sarkar has seemingly given some voice to that silent majority. Raya’s list of ‘academics who have sexually harassed/were sexually predatory’ has reportedly been crowdsourced from students who have chosen to remain anonymous, and at the time of writing this article, named 60 academics, mostly from India.
“If any one knows of academics who have sexually harassed/were sexually predatory to them or have seen it first hand PM me and I'll add them to the list,” Raya said in her post, and has since received several messages, reportedly from students who have been affected.
The post has created quite a stir among academics, feminists, and people on the internet. While hundreds of people have shared Raya’s post and have supported the initiative to name and shame these professors, many others have questioned whether putting together a list sourced from anonymous persons is fair, and have said that this goes against ‘due process’ and ‘natural justice’.
In fact, one of the first statements against the list came from Kafila, a blog for ‘radical political and media critique’. The note, titled ‘Statement from feminists on Facebook campaign to “Name and Shame”’, said, “We are dismayed by the initiative on Facebook, in which men are being listed and named as sexual harassers with no context or explanation.”
The statement further said that naming and shaming will ‘delegitimize the long struggle against sexual harassment.’ “We too know the process is harsh and often tilted against the complainant. We remain committed to strengthening these processes. At the same time, abiding by the principles of natural justice, we remain committed to due process, which is fair and just,” it said.
The statement has been signed by Ayesha Kidwai, Brinda Bose, Janaki Abraham, Janaki Nair, Kavita Krishnan, Madhu Mehra, Nandini Rao, Nivedita Menon, Pratiksha Baxi, Ranjani Mazumdar, Sabeena Gadihoke, Shikha Jhingan, Shohini Ghosh and Vrinda Grover.
Kafila’s statement has been criticised by many - especially because one of the co-founders of Kafila is named on the list put out by Raya, but this is not disclosed in the note.
Clarifying on the veracity of the list, Journalist Inji Pennu, who is helping Raya with the list, said:
“To acknowledge the concerns you have raised, below are some of the ways how the list is updated:* The list is put together as first-person accounts when women are coming forward to talk.* If it is a victim who wants to be completely anonymous, then her friend stands alibi for the victim.* ScreenShots of chats, Whatsapp messages, emails, call recordings are all collected in a folder for complete anonymity.”
In the face of such criticism, some of the people who have signed the statement have given clarifications as to why they support it.
JNU professor Ayesha Kidwai raised questions about ‘who is to be the credible adjudicator on how any #himtoo list is to be compiled.’
But as the ‘HimToo’ or not to ‘HimToo’ war rages, one thing is clear: Sexual harassment in academia, going by the number of professors who have been named, is real. As Raya writes in one of her comments, “This list is to make people wary of these predators, especially vulnerable people who may be their next victims.”