SEXUAL HARASSMENT Statistically Speaking
Men accused in the Indian #MeToo movement were 35-44 years old when they committed the offence. Three out of four live in Mumbai. Nearly half of them are repeat offenders. By Sreekant Khandekar
Men accused in the Indian #MeToo movement were 35-44 years old when they committed the offence. Three out of four live in Mumbai. Nearly half of them are repeat offenders.
Apause is a good time to review an unfolding story. And what a story it has been so far, with women known and anonymous pointing the finger of sexual harassment at about 50 men, most of them well known in their community.
The stuff that was traditionally discussed in whispers in office corridors is finding place on page one of newspapers. Not once but day after day, week after week. It has forced all of us to confront this mad disease the existence of which we always suspected. But we knew of neither its extent nor its exact nature. The #MeToo campaign exposed the faces behind it and gave us case studies in harassment.
For many of us, including myself, the past month has been a learning experience. It has brought the media, entertainment and advertising business attention it could certainly have done without. As the days went by, I began to wonder if there was something wrong with our business. How come nearly all the incidents were from this space alone?
Also, I asked myself: is social media the first resort or the last for an aggrieved woman?
Looking back, I might have been somewhat naïve in estimating the prevalence of persecution women face in office. That might be because I have always worked in – or started up – companies where women are treated equally. I had heard tales of MJ Akbar and his ‘harem’ in my news journalism days more than two decades ago. However, I imagined – wrongly it turns out – that in the new India, behaviour like this was anachronistic.
My reasoning went thus: at a gender level, we are a much more equal society than before. Also, this is no longer that poverty stricken India where jobs are hard to find. A harassed woman might not be able to fight back but surely she could quit and get another job? Would a boss dare molest a young colleague without fear of reprisal?
When actor Tanushree Dutta made the first allegation against veteran Nana Patekar, I didn’t think much about it since it was a decadeold case. And when, on its heels the dam burst upon former star editor MJ Akbar, with incidents from 20 years ago, it was just another reminder of something from the past.
Having followed the #MeToo campaign in the US intermittently, I had a sense of the issues and its origin. It all started with an article in The New York Times on October 5, 2017 which said that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had made a tradition over 30 years of sexually assaulting women whom he then paid off.
The origin of the Indian movement a year later has been quite the opposite: in the US, it was the media that took the lead to expose the powerful. In India, the allegations first surfaced on social media before
mainstream media followed up on it. (Also, in India there seem to be far more anonymous accusers compared to the US.)
So here is what we did at afaqs! My colleague Suraj Ramnath, whose research led to the table in this article, put down all the instances of men who have been accused of sexual harassment in the past month. We understand that these are allegations and some of the men might well be innocent. Still, if data from the National Crimes Research Bureau (as reported in The Times of India) is any indication, only 4 per cent of the 26,430 cases of sexual harassment dealt with by the police across India in 2016 were fake. So, Indian women don’t generally accuse casually.
Several of the alleged wrongdoers have been forced out of their jobs. Where they are self-employed, clients have begun asking questions.
In the case of lobbyist Suhel Seth, for example, who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, corporates including Mahindras, Adanis and JSW (Jindal) group told the media that Seth was no longer consulting with them. And the Tatas have decided to terminate their contract with Seth’s company. Let’s now look at the bare facts and see what they tell us about the pattern of harassment in Indian offices.
Total number of men: In all, 48 men have been accused of sexual harassment. We have left out the five who have been implicated for not acting on a complaint but were not harassers themselves. Moreover, we have left out Varun Grover who has been given a clean chit by Netflix as also Aditi Mittal, a standup comic who was among those accused because of an act on stage.
How old are they today?:
Assuming that they were 21 when they graduated, we have calculated their approximate age which would be 47 years today. Nearly half of them would fall in the 41-50-year age bracket.
And their age when they did the deed?: We have tried to pin down the year but details of several incidents are patchy. Where repeat offenders are involved, we have gone with the first offence. We have a rough timeline for 30 incidents. Based on these, the average age of the perpetrator was 39 years. According to this sample, the age when men are most likely to let their roving hands follow their roving eyes is 35-44 years.
Where did this happen?: While Delhi has a terrible reputation when
it comes to women’s safety, in the current #MeToo wave, Mumbai is the undisputed capital. Since we have no details to the contrary, we have assumed that the place where the alleged culprit now lives is where the crime took place.
So, nine belonged to Delhi NCR (National Capital Region), three to Bengaluru and one to Hyderabad.
The remaining 35 live in Mumbai – that is three out of every four against whom allegations have been made. This is ironical considering that the streets of Mumbai are rated among the safest in India.
Guess the business:
When it comes to the type of business the alleged perpetrators belong to, Indian films
win hands down. Fourteen of the men come from here followed by ad agencies which bring up a round dozen. The odd bit is that though film and television are both entertainment businesses located in Mumbai, only a couple of executives from the latter have been named. In comparison print, which has a staid image, has contributed seven editors to the list.