Solidarity Not Silence

South Asian people are speaking up against men in power more and more and it needs to carry on - until we’ve got to the heart of the matter. We’ve seen Hollywood’s #metoo movement send shock waves around the world - a defining moment that has snowballed since emboldening women to confirm that the culture of sexual harassment is a shared experience. The same kind of movement needs to be processed in Bollywood.

It all started after a comedian was called out, but issues within Bollywood have been going on for years without much resolution. Tanushree Dutta former Miss India made allegations over a decade ago that had no outcome but her story has resurfaced due to the awareness surrounding #metoo. But it’s not as big as Hollywood’s and despite support from people like Priyanka Chopra with a tweet saying to #believesurvivors, we are still waiting for Bollywood names to speak out. It’s easy to see why many women are reticent, it’s frustrating that they don’t.

When someone does speak out they are subject to victim shaming, blaming, legal consequences and the possibility of a professional boycott, which is perhaps why the Bollywood scandals haven’t had the same impact as Hollywood.

We have to believe those who have the courage to talk about their abuse, their harassment and the rape - if we don’t, the violence goes back under the radar. When we do believe and support them, it encourages more women to come forward and the stigma and shame slowly evaporate. It’s a therapeutic cliché to know you are ‘not alone’ but it’s what the slogan “me too” is all about. The stories that come out are the first mighty step on the road to recovery, yet it is so easy for an abuser to extend their campaign through courts. They’ve often got the money to hang a shadow over a woman’s life simply through the fear of legal action and law suits that shut down the truth that we so badly need to hear.

Speaking to Leo Kalyan (singer songwriter and producer) – he states that “it’s important to believe survivors of abuse because we live in a society where the aggressors are always believed. We must listen to victims when they are saying something”.

This leads me to talk about a campaign called SOLIDARITY NOT SILENCE which comes out of the very same moral imperative – to speak out and for women to find a unified voice of resistance to men who wilfully and regularly perpetrate this behaviour towards women.

A group of women are fighting a claim of defamation made by a well-known musician (hereon referred to as A).

In 2016 they independently made a number of public statements about A's behaviour towards women. This was in protest against unacceptable behaviour in the music community, a cause they all speak about regularly. Soon afterwards, they received letters from A's solicitor and came together as a group in order to support each other.

The group includes one of A's ex-girlfriends, one of several of his former partners who are facing a libel claim, and feminist musicians who spoke out in support of these women.

But what is defamation? A defamation claim is a claim brought in a civil court for compensation for publications, which are said to cause serious harm to someone’s reputation. This campaign has focused on defending our statements as we believe they were, and are still, in the public interest.

What happened?

The nature of this legal battle means that the women being sued are forced to keep their identities and A’s identity anonymous for fear of further aggravating the case and a renewed demand for even more compensation as well as prolonged legal costs, and all the stress that would rain down on us. So we have, in a very real sense, already been silenced.

A few bands and artists have now come forward in support and are putting on a benefit show to raise money and awareness about this terrible situation. Many other bands have donated merchandise for a giveaway and they are stretching their platform out to hear everyone’s voices in a collaborative zine open for submissions of art, essays, poem, prose and more. To everyone who has allied themselves to this campaign, the SnS core group are deeply appreciative. Without our coming together, this man would break us one by one, But we are not alone and this gives us power.

Tickets for this important benefit show are now on sale.