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#MeToo: Indian Minister MJ Akbar Resigns Over Accusations of Sexual Harassment

19 Octobre 2018

In these highly political times when women's power is manifesting itself in countless ways, the phenomenon has taken its toll of a senior political functionary with the movement against alleged sexual harassment of junior colleagues by Union minister M J Akbar in the days that he was a top-notch journalist culminating in his resignation. Over twenty women journalists have also gone on record to ask the court to "consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of" Akbar and of others "who bore witness to this harassment".

Akbar tried to stay on as a minister and to deflect attention from the accusations by suing Ramani.

Akbar, through his counsel, told the court that Ramani's defamatory statements had damaged his image, lowering his esteem in the eyes of the public.

They include Majlie de Puy Kamp, a journalist with CNN in NY, who claimed Akbar kissed her when she was an 18-year-old intern at his newspaper Asian Age in 2007.

"The conduct of the accused person, of not taking any action before any authority, qua the alleged incident against the complainant also clearly belies the sanctity of the article and allegations made by the accused person, which evidently goes on to prove that the said defamatory articles are only a figment of her imagination", it said.

Akbar has slapped a criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first journalist who publicly named and shamed the junior minster.

The matter is now listed for hearing on October 31 at 12 pm. More than twenty current and former journalists have come out with their stories of harassment against Akbar when he was their editor.

"But when I got to know from some other women that he had done the same with them also, I made a decision to take this step, although the other women do not want their names to come up", she claimed. "I can say that M.J. Akbar's resignation can be seen as the victory for those women against whom sexual harassment was done". During the show, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said Akbar's resignation is a victory for women, while BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the resignation should not be seen as a political issue.

With a high-level group of ministers being set up to look into the lacunae in existing laws against sexual harassment, a separate legal committee to look into allegations that have surfaced in the #MeToo campaign might not see light of the day, sources said on Friday. "Though the step should have been taken as soon as he landed in Delhi but now at least there would not be a power imbalance and it wouldn't be a fight between the government and Ramani".

In a country where patriarchy has deep roots and women are not encouraged to speak out, women activists said Mr Akbar's resignation sent a strong message.

"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice".

But today but he resigned to ministry and gave a statement. Earlier this week HuffPost India shared another account by a woman who was allegedly harassed by Akbar while working with him as a teenage intern.

#MeToo: Indian Minister MJ Akbar Resigns Over Accusations of Sexual Harassment