Indian minister in #MeToo storm announces resignation

Governance       Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over sexual harassment charges
       	        The Print Team         17 October 2018

Governance Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over sexual harassment charges The Print Team 17 October 2018

The former prominent newspaper editor is the most high profile figure to be named in what is being called India's #MeToo movement.

He said in a statement that since he had chose to challenge the "false accusations" against him in his "personal capacity", he felt it was appropriate to step down from office.

He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity to serve the country.

On Monday, he filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, who was the first to come out against Akbar.

"Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy", M J Akbar had said, responding to allegations of sexual harassment. In a statement, Mr Akbar said he thought it "appropriate" to resign since he had decided in his personal capacity to challenge the accusations in court. Two days after he had slapped a defamation suit against a woman journalist who was making allegations on Akbar, he has resigned.

According to the established procedure, the resignation will now be sent to the President.

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Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson and RS MP Manoj Jha said, "This is more than anybody else's a victory of the women who spoke out through the Me Too campaign". It may be recalled that after its initial silence, the Congress, led by its president Rahul Gandhi, has been supporting the movement, especially since the accusations against Akbar came out on social media.

On Wednesday, while welcoming Akbar's resignation, Nayak added that her party also thinks that the #MeToo movement should expand into creating a space for "fair trial so that justice prevails". After his stepping down as MoS for External Affairs, One of the accused, Priya Ramani took to her Twitter handle and stated Akbar's resignation a vindication for her as a woman.

Resident editor of The Asian Age newspaper Suparna Sharma, who also came out against Akbar, said she welcomes the resignation. Former journalist Tushita Patel wrote on Tuesday in Scroll that once, after Akbar invited her to his hotel room in 1992, he opened the door dressed "only" in his "underwear". "The complainant (Akbar) also had a long career in journalism, he launched India's first weekly political news magazine.", the complaint had said and listed out defamatory imputations made by Ramani on social media against him. The Vishakha Guidelines issued by the Honourable Supreme Court in 1997 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 ("POSH Act") have clearly laid down the steps to be taken to protect women at their workplaces. By Sunday, when Akbar returned from an official visit to Nigeria, he was facing a barrage of allegations from 14 women.

The phenomenon remains confined to India's urban elite at present, with vast numbers of women elsewhere in the country lacking either access to justice or a platform to name their tormentors.

All this while, the ruling BJP avoided taking a stand on the snowballing issue leaving Akbar to fend for himself.

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