List naming and shaming alleged sexual harassers in Indian universities sparks a debate

Some feminists worry that these anonymous accusations lack context and ‘answerability’.

A statement released by a group of 12 feminists on Tuesday set off a furious debate through the night by asking for the withdrawal of an online campaign to name and shame teachers at Indian universities who are alleged to have sexually harassed or assaulted students.

“It worries us that anybody can be named anonymously, with lack of answerability,” the statement said. “One or two names of men who have been already found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, are placed on par with unsubstantiated accusations.”

The statement urges survivors to use institutional procedures to complain against sexual harassment, even as it acknowledges that this process is “tilted against the complainant”.

There are 35 names so far on a Google Document and 60 names on a Facebook list started at the urging of a user named Raya Sarkar. While the Facebook lists just the names and locations of the alleged perpetrators, the Google Document also has alleged details in some cases of the nature and year of assault. Many of these alleged incidents took place in the last five years.

“This list is to make people wary of these predators, especially vulnerable people who may be their next victims,” said the woman who started the list on her Facebook post. “This list is not for their colleagues chai biscuit gossip or some kind of crusade to get them kicked out of their Universities because if that were actually possible they would be long gone.”

#MeToo campaign

This list comes soon after a social media campaign called #MeToo that saw several individuals speaking about their experiences of being sexually harassed and assaulted over the years. This later evolved into the #HimToo campaign in the English-speaking world and #BalanceTonPorc in France, where women began to name those who had assaulted them. Over the weekend, Huffington Post took down a post by researcher C Christine Fair on her blog with the website after she named a long list of men who had allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted her.

A heated debate has now erupted on social media in response to the lists and later the statement by the Indian feminists.

One Facebook user said she was not surprised at the names on the list, many of whom were her friends and colleagues who should not be beyond questioning, and empathised with the frustration and humiliation that those who had named them must have faced over the years. But she also asked for people to think of the use of power in making such lists.

“There is power in making and circulating such a list. Naming and shaming is a game played by patriarchy over ages. Do we adopt the same strategies? If that is true then all we are doing is shifting power from one set of hands to the other without building any new narratives around it, without reimagining how power must build solidarities among the oppressed and bring the oppressors to justice, without creating any possibilities of collective futures.”  

One of the men whose name is on the list had this to say:

 “It has been brought to my attention that there is a list in circulation of persons denounced anonymously for unknown misdeeds, and that I am on it,and that furthermore the method of anonymous denunciations was solicited by someone for some purpose. Should there be a charge to answer, would it not make sense to name the charge? This will make it far from easy to distinguish between genuine charges and random denunciations.” 

Yet others strongly criticised the feminist statement on the Kafila website for not holding the same standards they applied to other cases of sexual assault and rape. Critics also pointed out that it was precisely because institutional mechanisms of complaint were broken and weighted against the complainants that this list was created in the first place.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

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Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.