Minister Resigns Amid Flurry Of Sexual Harassment Charges

Sergio Conner
October 18, 2018

Facing allegations of groping, assault and harassment from former female colleagues, MJ Akbar, junior minister for foreign affairs, said he had made a decision to resign and challenge what he labeled "false accusations".

India's fledgling #MeToo movement claimed its highest-profile scalp to date on Wednesday as a government minister and veteran editor quit after at least 20 women accused him of sexual harassment.

However, Akbar has termed his resignation as an appropriate step in a bid to seek justice in a court of law in his personal capacity.

A series of allegations of sexual harassment and assault has prompted the resignation of an Indian government minister, the most prominent public figure named in the country's own #MeToo movement.

The NWMI said that all support should be extended by the government to women in their struggle for justice and that Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj should "take workplace harassment seriously and not encourage intimidatory tactics against women who have complained".

The accounts continued to pour even after Akbar had filed the defamation case.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted his resignation, news agency PTI reported quoting official sources.

On Monday, 15 October, Akbar filed a criminal defamation suit against Ramani before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House Court. "We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment", the journalists said in the joint statement undersigned by them.

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"We salute the courage of the 20 courageous women who boldly faced Akbar's intimidation and forced him to resign as a minister of government of India".

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.

Meanwhile, responding to Akbar's statement, Ramani said the central minister is trying to "silence" the voices "through intimidation and harassment".

"By ignoring this defining moment, and watching silently while a government minister sues a woman who has spoken out, your government is giving a regressive message: that the fundamental right to life, safety and dignity of a sizeable section of the workforce does not matter", it said.

Ramani was the first woman to level sexual harassment charges against Akbar. As reported in the media, Shri Akbar is attempting to involve the complainants in time-consuming and costly litigation to avoid answering the allegations which have been levelled against him.

Akbar's resignation is a significant development in the country's burgeoning #MeToo story, but it is unclear whether it will have ramifications for other politicians accused of sexual misconduct.

Responding to the allegations after returning to India from an official visit overseas, Akbar called the allegations "false and fabricated" and questioned their timing, hinting at a political campaign against him. Lawyers and women's groups said that could act as a deterrent to more victims coming forward.

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