mid-day editorial: Don't silence voices that are finally speaking up

Mumbai may be oceans apart from the US, but like the rest of the world, this city too has its eye on the circus that the US presidential race has turned out to be. The contest is currently overshadowed by the allegations of sexual harassment against Republican candidate Donald Trump.

His lewd comments, passed off as ‘locker room banter’, have taken the narrative out of the narrow election plank. Even as you read this, more women are coming forward with their own experiences of being touched inappropriately or molested by Trump. It is not this editorial’s aim to prove whether the women are speaking the truth or not. Cases of sexual harassment are inherently private in nature, so there will always be a ‘she said, he said’ debate. And yet, to dismiss these women’s accounts just because they are coming forward decades after the incident is belittling the victims.

Often, when women speak out, they are asked why they kept quiet for so many years. There are reasons for the silence. The fear of being dismissed is one. The prospect of being mocked or humiliated is pervasive in India, where the victim is often shamed instead of the abuser. Anger, guilt, confusion, trepidation about the repercussions and the futility of speaking out — the list can go on.

This is not to say that there aren’t false cases of rape, yet there is no comparison to the scale at which genuine victims have suffered. Just because a woman decides to speak 10, 15 or 20 years later, she cannot automatically be termed a liar. Instead of trying to silence these voices with Trump talk, we must open our eyes to the fact that sexual harassment is much more commonplace than we think it is. It is time we believe it, even if it’s more comfortable not to do so.

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