Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Minister Quits After Me Too Allegations

Minister Quits After Me Too Allegations Minister Quits After Me Too Allegations
Melinda Barton | 18 October, 2018, 04:22

Earlier, Akbar stepped down as minister of state for external affairs following a spate of allegations of sexual harassment during his days as editor of several publications.

The string of accusations against Akbar began when journalist Priya Ramani identified him on Twitter on October 8 as the unnamed editor that she had described in a story about newsroom sexual harassment published in Vogue previous year.

"Since I have made a decision to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations against me", he said in a statement.

After the complaint was filed, as many as 20 journalists who have worked under him went 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".

Unlike in many countries, where defamation is a civil offence, Indian law also has provisions which classify it as a criminal offence punishable with a jail term of up to two years.

It's now M J Akbar vs Priya Ramani. Ramani had received an unprecedented support from across India. She said while Akbar was a minister "he might have wanted to fast-forward it" but she wasn't sure "how interested he will be in fast-forwarding the case now".

Pressure on Akbar mounted this week as fresh accounts of harassment emerged. But 20 other women have since offered to testify against him.

"If I don't speak up now, I feel I'll be complicit in your crime", Patel wrote, addressing Akbar. "I wriggled out and ran till I reached the road, jumped into an auto rickshaw and started crying". By Sunday, when Akbar returned from an official visit to Nigeria, he was facing a barrage of allegations from 14 women.

The controversy was also becoming a ripe target for Modi's critics.

Gandhi, in many of his recent speeches at election rallies, has come out strongly against the Modi government for not speaking up on the charges against one of its ministers.

The #MeToo movement, which spread virally a year ago following sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, attempts to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. Questions pertaining to the journalist-turned-politician were repeatedly skirted by members of the central government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A BJP spokesman, Sambit Patra, did not respond to requests for comment.

Ramani had recently identified Akbar as the unnamed editor in an article she had written in Vogue in October 2017, where she recounted her interview with him in a hotel.

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.