Editorial

Sex and power: On Harvey Weinstein conviction

Weinstein’s conviction is a vindication of the #MeToo movement around the world

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been convicted of two felony sex crimes and potentially faces 29 years in prison. His New York courtroom trial, during which six women testified that he assaulted them, was a touchstone for the global #MeToo movement and for holding powerful, wealthy men accountable for the sexual harassment and assault of women. The prosecution’s case was tricky because, given the length of time that had passed since the alleged incidents, there was a lack of physical and forensic evidence that might have supported the allegations against Mr. Weinstein. As a result, the trial became a painful struggle for the survivors to prove their credibility. Matters were complicated by some of the survivors acknowledging having had consensual sex with him after being attacked by him, which gave the defence opportunities to argue that the women had wanted to further their careers. However the survivors, including a production assistant who said he had forced her to have sex in 2006, and a former actress who said he had raped her at a hotel in 2013, said that he was a predator whose premeditated actions included not only the attacks on the survivors but also attempts to leverage his power over their professional lives to buy their silence. While he was ultimately found guilty of a criminal sex act in the first degree and of rape in the third degree, he was acquitted of the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault involving two other women.

The Harvey Weinstein story | From studio to courtroom in 40 years

The #MeToo movement was kicked off in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke as a battle against traumatic, widespread and under-reported incidents of assault on women, in many — but not all — cases in the workplace. While it began in Hollywood and mostly in the U.S., it spread like wildfire and reverberated through India too. Soon, social media platforms became the means for women to tell their stories about high-profile men, specifically allegations of sexual impropriety detailing the alleged acts, and naming the men involved publicly. The outpouring of stories of abuse — often by multiple accusers for one man — centred on men of considerable professional standing in India. In many cases the accused person was fired or resigned, or, less often, has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation. If anything, the Weinstein conviction and the #MeToo movement have unearthed the seamy workplace culture of sexual abuse and harassment. Regardless of the shape that the movement now takes, that very act of shining a light on a dark social reality has given pause for thought to a generation of men who might have earlier adopted a more cavalier attitude about consent.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 3:05:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/sex-and-power-the-hindu-editorial-on-harvey-weinstein-conviction/article30925383.ece

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