Research Article

Adverse Effects Brought About By The #METOO Movement – A Cross Border Analysis

Author: KANIKA MAWRI, 2nd year LL.B. student at Amity Law School, Noida. 


Throughout history, social movements have been imperative for the advancement of many countries and societies[1]. They are constituted when a group of people come together and voice their discontent regarding a social issue[2]. Deep rooted social evils are present in every sphere of the society and such movements help in curbing and, eventually, eradicating them. Sexual harassment and sexual assault, which is mostly prevalent in workplaces, is one such social evil which is deeply ingrained in our society. It has a genesis in the male dominated society and the centuries old custom that women should not speak out. The #metoo movement started, if not to cure the social evil of sexual harassment at workplace or otherwise, but to point out its existence in the society and to empower women to speak out against it. It has gained global recognition due to which many governments introduced and amended laws relating to sexual harassment and sexual assault in their respective countries. Nevertheless, social movements, such as #metoo, can also be destructive[3]. This paper throws light upon the adverse effects which came along with the #metoo movement in India as well as other countries.


The #metoo movement can be defined as a social movement against sexual misconduct in which the victims of such misconduct speak out about their experiences publically. Such instances are most prevalent in the workplaces. The movement gained global recognition through the social networking platform, twitter, and many survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment from all across the world came forward to share their experiences and stood in solidarity with other women who have been through the same.

Since the movement gained international as well as national recognition, many countries all across the world were pressurized into introducing and amending laws relating to sexual misconduct. Safeguarding women at the workplace was the top priority. It was observed that most instances of sexual harassment are not even reported as the women live in fear and shame. Women are subjected to abuse as a result of patriarchal values, which can be both implicit and direct, and they are expected to conform to dogmatic gender norms. These values and norms pose a major challenge in resolving and preventing crimes related to sexual harassment.


The phrase “me too” was originally coined by American activist Tarana Burke in the year 2003. It later became a movement in 2006.[4] The logic behind this movement, as voiced by Burke, is to empower women through empathy and solidarity; by visibly demonstrating the frequency of cases related to sexual assault and harassment and by telling survivors they aren’t alone and are supported[5].

A decade later, in the year 2017, the “me too” movement gained momentum and became a hashtag, after actress Alyssa Milano invited the victims of sexual harassment to reply to her tweet with a #metoo. This was after several allegations of sexual harassment against American film producer Harvey Weisten were all over the news and social media platforms. The response to Alyssa Milano’s tweet was overwhelming, which revealed the magnitude of the problem[6]. In less than a month after Milano first published her tweet, #Metoo was retweeted over 23 million times by people from 85 different countries.

In India, the movement started in the year 2018, when actress Tanushree Dutta accused actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her while shooting for the 2008 film ‘Horn Ok Please’.[7] After the #metoo trend, twitter flooded with stories of survivors of sexual misconduct. Women began recounting tales from years, or even decades earlier, often at great risks to their reputation and safety.


After the #metoo movement went viral, several countries were impacted socially and culturally. Some countries were also impacted legally, as laws relating to sexual misconduct were amended and new laws were introduced.

Positive impact

In Japan, the #metoo movement is widely associated with journalist Shiori Ito, who accused her boss of raping her in 2015 and eventually won a lawsuit against him. A top ranking finance ministry official, Junichi Fukuda, who was accused of sexually harassing a female reporter resigned soon after protests broke out against sexual harassment[8]. In 2017, there was a penal code amendment (Act no. 72 of 2017) pertaining to sexual offences in Japan which greatly changed the former regulations relating to sexual offences, such as rape.

The minimum penalty in rape cases was raised and sexual intercourse/ indecency by a guardian was made a punishable offence. It also made crimes related to sexual offences prosecutable without filing a victim complaint[9].

In the United States, several states passed laws prohibiting the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases. A Non-Disclosure Agreement is a legally binding contract that establishes a confidential relationship. The non-disclosure agreement in several high profile cases, including Harvey Weinstein’s case, prevented the victims of sexual misconduct from speaking out[10]. States are also expanding their sexual harassment laws to provide protection to more workers. As bringing a sexual harassment lawsuit is expensive, a group of women in Hollywood has started a fund called Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund, which has helped over 3,600 people to seek justice.[11] Since #metoo, allegations against legislators have also come up. This has led the Congress to take steps to reform itself as a workplace.

In 2018, Australian journalist and lawyer Osborne Crowley opened up about getting raped at knife-point at the age of 15; something she had kept a secret for over a decade. She conceded that the #metoo movement encouraged her to share her story publicly as well as privately[12]. The #metoo movement in Australia resulted in a landmark national inquiry report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. The 932 page report of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Respect@Work[13], helps in preventing and responding to sexual harassment at workplace. In Canada, the movement provoked increased attention from the government to the problem of sexual misconduct due to which a national strategy to deal with sexual assault cases is being formulated. Furthermore, the government is investing more than $100 million to prevent gender-based violence[14]. In 2017, Bill C-65 was introduced, which spelled out responsibilities for federal employers to prevent workplace violence and harassment. The bill bolsters the provisions in the Canadian Labour Code to include the complete spectrum of violence and harassment in the workplace. It instructs employers to do three main things: 1) work to prevent incidents of harassment and violence; respond effectively to incidents when they do occur; and support affected employees.[15] Sandra Muller, a French journalist, started the #BalanceTonPorn (denounce your pig) movement in France in 2017, which is the equivalent of #metoo[16]. Struck by the overwhelming response of the movement, the French Government passed a bill extending statute of limitation for sex crimes and making it illegal to harass someone in public[17]. As a result, 447 fines were handed down by the Courts within eight months to tackle street harassment of women[18]. In 2021, the country introduced another legislation which sets the age of sexual consent at 15 years. The legislation also considers incestuous sex with a minor under 18 to be rape[19]. The move comes after a second #metoo wave due to a series of sex abuse scandals and incestuous allegations after a book named La Familia Grande was published, which made shocking revelations. The book is authored by Camille Kouchner, who has accused her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel- one of France’s most prestigious intellectuals and media personalities – of sexually abusing his stepson and Camille’s twin brother, Antoine Kouchner, during their teenage years[20]. This led to the inception of new hashtags in France, such as, #MeTooInceste and #MeTooGay, and a second #metoo wave started with people coming forward and talking about their incestious sexual harassment stories[21].

The first case during the #metoo movement which captured public attention in China was one of Professor Chén Xiǎowǔ of Beihang University for sexually harassing a student, after which he was fired from the university.[22]Another woman, Zhou Xiaoxuan, who accused a TV host, Zhu Jin, for sexually harassing her when she was interning under him, prompted widespread protests. In 2018, the PRC National People’s Congress issued a new draft that would codify laws granting better protection against sexual harassment. The draft gives a definition for sexual harassment and creates an onus on employers to protect and prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces, punishing those who don’t comply with this law.[23] The draft was converted into a Civil Code and took effect from 1st January, 2021.[24]

Tanushree Dutta’s #metoo case in India encouraged many survivors of alleged sexual misconduct to speak out. Some of the people accused of sexual harassment included Alok Nath, M.J. Akbar, Suhel Seth, Jatin Das[25]. Changes are evident in the workplaces, movies, comedy scripts and everyday interactions. Comedian Neeti Patla says after the #metoo movement, many male comedians run their jokes past female comedians to check whether it’s funny or offensive[26]. The movement has compelled firms and institutions to introspect and follow procedure laid down in the Sexual Harassment Act of 2013[27]. The number of complaints registered under the POSH law has also spiked up[28] which shows that women have become more comfortable in coming forward in case of any sexual misconduct in the workplace[29]. She-box, an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, was launched in 2017 for the online lodging of Sexual harassment complaints from women working in public as well as private workplaces. Several women aggrieved by the decisions of the Internal Complaints Committee lodge their cases to the She-Box.[30]

Adverse impact

While the #metoo movement had many positive impacts all over the world, it is not free from drawbacks.

The first drawback is defamation cases against victims. In a potential blow to the #metoo movement, many victims of sexual misconduct across the world are being accused of defamation. Defamation law is being used as a weapon against these victims. Defamation is a statement that injures a third party’s reputation[31]. In 2018, Mr M.J. Akbar, an indian journalist and politician, who was accused of sexually harassing over a dozen women, filed a suit for criminal defamation against Journalist Priya Ramani, the first woman to speak out against him in context of the #metoo movement[32]. Recently in China, two former journalists, Zou Sicong and He Qian, were convicted of defaming a third journalist, Deng Fei, by publishing an account accusing him of sexual misconduct.[33] Sandra Muller, the woman who started France’s campaign against sexual harassment, #BalanceTonPorc, was fined for defamation after she accused Eric Brion, a media consultant and former head of the TV channel Equidia, of sexually harassing her[34].

The second drawback is victim blaming. Victim blaming is the attitude which suggests that the victim rather than the offender bears responsibility for the crime. It occurs with the assumption that the victim may have instigated the violence by actions, words.[35] Victim blaming is mostly prevalent in orthodox countries, but even takes place in the developed and modern nations due to the universality of patriarchy. When Japanese journalist Shiori Ito accused Noriyuki Yamaguchi, who is a former broadcast journalist with close links to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; of sexual assault, Yamaguchi quickly dismissed the allegations, calling her a habitual liar and blaming her for being intoxicated during the assault. Ito got several death threats and hate messages and the media criticized her for her outfit and blamed her for being intoxicated during the assault[36].

The third drawback is power and authority of the offender. The people accused of sexual harassment are always at a dominant position, where they can take advantage of their authority over vulnerable women. The case of sexual harassment against former Chief Justice of India, Mr Ranjan Gogoi, demonstrates how power plays a significant role in sexual misconduct cases[37]. Investigation in the case was done by a forum appointed by Mr Gogoi himself. The forum worked in an opaque manner converting the order into a secret that no one has access to, denying the victim even the basic right of legal representation and dismissing her complaint as without basis.[38]

The Fourth drawback is refusal to hire women. A study shows that in the wake of the #metoo movement, employers have become reluctant to hire attractive women; hire women for jobs involving close interpersonal interactions with men; and avoid one on one conversation with female colleagues[39].

The fifth drawback is false allegations of sexual misconduct. A look at the past #metoo cases indicate an urgent need to create a system which is fair to all parties. Allegations against writer Varun Grover of sexually harassing an anonymous colleague were proved wrong by an independent inquiry[40]. In another case relating to comedian Utsav Chakraborty, one of the women who accused him of sexual harassment acknowledged having consensual sex an year after the accusation.[41] False allegations curtail the actual purpose and gravity of the #metoo movement.


The #metoo movement continues to attain widespread and tangible impact on a global scale. Its influence can be detected from cases around the world, amendments in legislations, and, paradoxically, in the growing backlash. Defamation suits, targeted harassment, victim blaming, and arrests are some of the tactics adopted by people to silence women in many countries.

Victims of sexual harassment are getting justice, more than ever before. The movement has evidently made it easier for women to speak up against sexual harassment in the workplace and in general[42].

Government ministers around the world have resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. In nations where women haven’t had any legislative victories, the movement has encouraged people to share their experience without shame. For instance, in Senegal, the hashtag #Nopiwouma (Wolof for “I will not shut up”) was started to encourage women to speak out about sexual harassment. A flood of messages were received from women around the country and through an anonymous google survey, it was found that 90% of the women were speaking for the first time ever about their experience[43].

In some countries, offenders are facing legal and social consequences for sexual harassment for the first time. In Nigeria, there were only 18 recorded rape convictions in its entire legal history since independence, demonstrating serious underreporting. However, in 2018, a 23 year old Nigerian student Monica Osagie defied history by presenting concrete evidence in Court against her professor for sexual misconduct. The professor was suspended and the case sparked a nationwide conversation against harassment and laying groundwork for future cases against such issues.[44]

A survey of rural India shows that the movement has trickled down to some of the rural areas where men have started thinking twice before sexually harassing women.[45] Furthermore, in the 2021 defamation case of M.J. Akbar, journalist Priya Ramani has been acquitted of the charge of criminal defamation against the minister, which paves a way for how accusations of workplace harassment will be dealt with in the future.


The Constitution of India is committed to attain gender equality and gives special recognition to women in various provisions. Preamble is called the spirit of the Constitution and it ensures to all citizens social, economic and political justice; equality of status and opportunity; liberty; and dignity. Due to the spirit of the Constitution in this regard, various laws have been enacted for the protection of women. Part IV- Fundamental Rights of the Constitution provides protection to women. Article 14[46] ensures the right to equality to women and confers that nobody has a special privilege in the eyes of the law. It also gives scope for reasonable classification based on the principle of justice vs. Equity. Article 15[47] prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and allows the state to make special reservation for women (positive discrimination). Article 16[48]provides for equal opportunity to all in the matter of public employment and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in case of hiring and promotions. Article 19(1) (g)[49] guarantees women to carry and choose any profession of their choice. Article 21[50] protects the right to life and personal liberty of every citizen and benefits women by protecting their dignity. Article 23[51] prohibits human trafficking and protects women from right against exploitation (prostitution, bonded labour).

Article 39[52] under DPSP’s states that the state shall direct its policy towards securing equal pay for equal work, health and strength of workers must not be abused. Fundamental Duty given under Article 51A (e)[53] imposes on every citizen the responsibility to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

Criminal law: Sexual Harassment is a cognizable offence for which the victim must file a FIR under Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code at the nearest police station, at the victim’s residence, or at any convenient location of her preference. FIR initiates the criminal law process which can be filed by the victim or someone with knowledge of the facts of the case. Alternatively, under Section 156(3) read with Section 190 of the CrPC, a private complaint may be lodged before a Judicial Magistrate or Metropolitan Magistrate, who may order the police to record an FIR. The Criminal Law places a high threshold of burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt on the prosecution and prescribes strict punishments.[54]

The Information Technology Act[55] is applicable in many #metoo cases since it is a social media movement. Section 65-B of The Evidence Act, 1872, makes the social media evidence a substantive piece of evidence and legally admissible in the Court of law. However, it requires the attestment of the person legally producing them as permissible evidence.[56]

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013[57](Hereinafter ‘POSH Act’), came into force after the landmark judgment of Vishakha and ors. Vs. State of Rajasthan and ors[58], incorporating the guidelines laid down in the judgment. Roots of POSH have been taken from CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), which was ratified by India in July 1993[59]. CEDAW is also called as the international bill for rights of women. Walker vs. Northumberland County Council[60] was the first successful claim against sexual harassment at workplace in England.

The objective of the POSH Act is to ensure that the working space for women is safe by providing protection, prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and to build enabling work environment for her, environment which is not hostile to her, respects her right to equality of status and opportunity[61]. It also aims at ensuring economic empowerment of women.

The Nature of the POSH Act is preventive not punitive. It is a civil remedy, providing a redressal mechanism and doesn’t initiate criminal proceedings. The POSH Act defines sexual harassment under Section 2(n) and protects the confidentiality of the complainant under Section 16. It shifts accountability onto the institutions and casts a duty on the employers to ensure that there is a redressal mechanism in the work premise, in case an apprehension/act of sexual harassment takes place against a woman. A two tier redressal mechanism is provided by the Act- Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local Complaints Committee (LCC). In case a woman is aggrieved by the investigation procedure carried out by the ICC/LCC, she can move to the High Court by filing a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution[62].


Vishakha’s[63] case is a landmark judgment of sexual harassment at workplace in India. In this case, Bhanwari Devi, a social worker working as a saathin (friend) for the State Government’s Women’s Development Programme (WDP) was gang-raped by villagers angered by her efforts to prevent a child marriage in their family[64]. The State authorities had refused to help her since she was not at her workplace when the crime happened[65]. However, it was argued that she was raped because of her work and the government must take responsibility. At that time there was no law in India against sexual harassment at workplace. Consequently, four women’s organisations filed a Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, demanding safer workplaces for women and putting responsibility on the employers to protect women employees at every step. The Court was constrained to lay down certain guidelines, known as the ‘Vishakha guidelines’, (Vishakha was one of the four women’s organisations and the first party listed in the Petition[66]) for sexual harassment at workplace. Same guidelines were incorporated in the POSH Act. Sexual harassment was defined as any unwelcome sexually determined, physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct and the responsibility to protect women was put on the employers. [67]

In the case of Apparel Export Promotion Council vs. A.K. Chopra[68], Court laid down the test of how it was to be determined whether a female has been sexually harassed at the workplace or not. It held that 1) if an adverse consequence is visited by the victim; 2) if she didn’t consent to the conduct in question and 3) if she raises an objection; then it can be concluded she has been sexually harassed. The Court further held that the High Court can interfere in disciplinary matters and punishment imposed and that the complaint mechanism should be in place with a woman as chairperson.

In the case of Medha Kotwal Lele vs. Union of India[69], Hon’ble Supreme Court raised concern as to despite two litigations already being decided, why the Vishakha guidelines have not been complied with and why the legislature hasn’t come up with a law implementing these guidelines and ensuring that they are practically implemented.

In another case, Dr. Punita k. Sodhi vs. Union of India & or.[70], it was held that sexual harassment at workplace is a subjective matter and the decision of each case is given by the Courts on its own merits.

In Mobashar Jawed Akbar vs . Priya Ramani (2021), Ms. Ramani was accused of defaming Mr Akbar since she named him in a twitter post alleging that he had sexually harassed her in the year 1993. Acquitting her of charges of criminal defamation, the Court made four significant points[71]. First, the right to reputation cannot be protected at the expense of a woman’s right to life and dignity as guaranteed by the Constitution. Second, a woman has a right to share her grievances related to sexual harassment at any platform, even after decades. Third, women may not speak up against sexual harassment at the time of the incident due to many reasons, including lack of a proper redressal mechanism or due to fear of stigma and fourth, an abusive person can be a normal, well-respected citizen in the society.

In Mukesh & Anr. Vs. State for NCT of Delhi & ors.[72] (Nirbhaya case), a woman was brutally gang raped in a moving bus by five adult men and a juvenile. This case can be called as India’s #MeToo movement, since it led to widespread protests across the country, demanding for stringent laws for crimes against women- specifically rape and sexual harassment laws.After the incident, the Justice Verma Committee was set up to analyse and recommend amendments to existing laws relating to sexual offences. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed which provided more stringent laws by amending Indian Penal Code, 1860; Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Indian Evidence Act, 1872; and protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Section 354A of IPC was inserted as a result which provided for the definition and punishment for sexual harassment.This case had a significant impact on the reporting of crimes against women. The average annual reporting of sexual harassment and molestation cases was 40% higher between the years 2013-2015[73].


The Phrase #metoo is still being used as a sign of solidarity for victims of sexual misconduct and new posts featuring the hashtag are posted daily on social media platforms. They are consistent reminders of the magnitude of the problem, revealing that sexual harassment is ubiquitous and still existing in the society. The main reason for harassment in workplaces and otherwise is the patriarchal setup of the society and traditional gender roles. Constitutional provisions ensure equality, protection and dignity to women. Hence, protection from sexual harassment is a Constitutional right which must be given to women.

It is evident that the #metoo movement has made an impact in many countries all across the world. Although it comes with certain adverse effects, it has been more effective in promoting social change and creating a safer environment for the victims. Apart from the concrete victories achieved by the movement, a backlash has also grown.

Though there has been an increase in reporting of sexual harassment cases after the movement, many women still choose not to report such incidents due to fear of social stigma, fear of retribution, lack of awareness of reporting policies, or lack of confidence in themselves or the complaint mechanism.[74]

A 2018 study found that many districts in India failed to establish committees or constitute them as per the Vishakha guidelines[75]. The study also found lack of awareness amongst members regarding roles and responsibilities, which in turn indicates a lack of capacity to deal with sexual harassment cases, further resulting in low reporting of sexual harassment cases. Most committees are constituted just to show compliance with law, but they are not committed to make the workplace safer for women. Sexual harassment complaints are mostly trivialized and there is character assassination of the victim[76].

Furthermore, Section 14 of the POSH Act provides for penalizing the complainant in case of a false or malicious complaint, negating the whole point of the Act and making it vulnerable to be misused by the accused. A Right to Information request in 2018 found that 70% of cases lodged with the She-Box were still pending, and there is still little awareness about this initiative and its cases[77].

There is still much that the movement needs to accomplish. Many countries have amended their laws but the implementation is poor, resulting in inadequate relief and improper justice to the victims of sexual misconduct. Lack of evidence in #metoo cases in India has led to the acquittal of many offenders of sexual harassment. There is still a lot that needs to be done before sexual misconduct becomes a thing of the past, from more reforms in legislation to actual safety for survivors who speak up.


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  46. INDIA CONST. art. 14
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  62. Id at 54.
  63. Id at 58.
  64. Geeta Pandey, Bhanwari Devi: The rape that led to india’s sexual harassment law, BBC NEWS, (May 1, 2021, 9:24 PM),
  65. Ibid.
  66. Archana Nathan, Dalit woman’s rape in ‘92 led to India’s first sexual harassment law-but justice still eludes her, SCROLL.IN, (May 1, 2021, 9:33 PM),,party%20listed%20on%20the%20petition.
  67. Id at 61.
  68. AIR 1997 SC 625
  69. (2013) 1 SCC 297
  70. W.P. (C) 367/2009 & CMS 828, 11426/2009
  71. Editorial team, Significant points in the #MeToo verdict, THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, (Apr. 27, 2021, 3:31 AM),
  72. 2017 SCC 719
  73. Akshay Bhatnagar, Sparking the #MeToo revolution in India: Delhi’s Nirbhaya case, IDEAS FOR INDIA, (May 1, 2021, 10:03 PM),
  74. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH,, (last visited May 1, 2021).
  75. ibid.
  76. Id at 15.
  77. Sanya Dhingra, #MeToo: 70% of sexual harassment complaints filed with Maneka’s mnistry yet to be disposed of, THE PRINT, (May 1, 2021, 11:53 PM),

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