Indian minister in #MeToo storm quits

Indian minister in #MeToo storm announces resignation

President Ram Nath Kovind accepted MJ Akbar's resignation as the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs amidst strong criticism over multiple sexual harassment allegations against the journalist-turned-politician. Women activists now hope to strengthen an existing Indian law, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, which has been poorly implemented since it was enacted in 2013.

The woman said she could not say anything then because she was "new in the job" and "scared" to speak up. "Tweets are defamatory unless Ramani proves anything", the lawyer added.

We can't lose this battle.

Sangh functionaries whom CNBC-TV18 approached said there could be no two ways about the case and there can be no compromise with women's safety and respect.

Pressure on Akbar mounted this week as fresh accounts of harassment emerged. "If we lose this battle, we're losing the war", said Sandhya Menon, one of the women journalists leading the movement.

Her accusation prompted a torrent of allegations against the minister and former newspaper editor, made by women journalists who used to work with him in his newsrooms. She wrote: "Suddenly you got up, grabbed me and kissed me hard - your stale tea breath and your bristly moustache are still etched in the recesses of my memory.




Earlier after returning from Nigeria, MJ Akbar termed the accusations false and baseless. Apart from Ramani, some of the other woman journalists to recount instances of Akbar's misconduct include Ghazala Wahab, Suparna Sharma, and Harinder Baweja.

Though the pressure was high, both on him and the government, from women groups and also saffron ideologues, sources said the final decision was taken after "carefully testing the waters" and when it eventually became clear that his presence was causing "irreparable harm" to the reputation of the BJP, in the country as well as overseas. "It should not be used to cast aspersions on the Union government", Singh said while talking to India Today in Agra. As part of the #MeToo movement, she went on to tweet that the journalist she was referring to was Akbar and that he had made her uncomfortable after calling her for an interview in a hotel room.

Netizens are supporting Priya Ramani and others and trolling the former minister. It is a sad commentary on our respect for the rule of law that the newspaper organisations concerned had not put in place mechanisms to implement the Vishakha Guidelines, which would have provided an avenue for redressal to women who felt they were the victims of sexual harassment. Senior counsel Geeta Luthra and Advocate Sandeep Kapur appeared for Akbar and made submissions regarding cause of actions as well to establish the Court's jurisdiction, Bar & Bench said.

Ramani was the first to name Akbar in a Twitter post on October 8, and had revealed that an article she had written previous year about an editor inviting her to his hotel room for a job interview and asking her to sit on the bed with him, was Akbar.

In one high-profile case, a Bollywood production house has been dissolved following sexual harassment allegations against one of its co-founders.

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