Indian Minister Resigns to Contest #MeToo Allegations in Court


The trigger appears to have been actress Tanushree Dutta, who recently accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago.

"When we looked at women managers, one of the things that was obvious was that whenever they faced harassment, they went back home or their home pulled them back", said Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based think tank. 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.

"A criminal defamation charge is a clear attempt to bully, intimidate and silence those who are bringing to light systemic abuse of women by men in powerful positions", said the letter, written by the Network of Women in Media, the Foundation of Media Professionals and the Brihan Mumbai Union of Journalists.

We can't lose this battle.

Other prominent men in India have also faced repercussions from India's #MeToo movement.

The minister has been accused by several women of sexually harassing them.

. But 20 other women have since offered to testify against him. On Tuesday, the news website Scroll published a new accusation of harassment from journalist Tushita Patel, who prefaced her allegations by saying that she felt compelled to speak out because of Akbar's brazen denial.

She proceeded to recount that the refurbished office of the Asian Age newspaper, of which Akbar was then Editor, in Surya Kiran building was "big" and Akbar's room "soundproof". By Sunday, when Akbar returned from an official visit to Nigeria, he was facing a barrage of allegations from 14 women.

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Pressure on Akbar mounted this week as fresh accounts of harassment emerged.

A senior minister spoke to The Indian Express last week, underlining that the government had nothing to do with the allegations against him as they pertained to the period before he had joined the party or had become a minister.

India's prime minister often uses the slogan, "Educate the daughter, save the daughter", Gandhi noted, according to the Hindustan Times.

On Thursday, India's courts will decide whether to hear the testimony of those women.

"Defamation suits are not always taken in a negative manner, because [they give] people opportunities to prove that what was said was true", said Indira Jaising, a lawyer who has argued many women's rights cases.

"It's not over yet", Suparna Sharma, one of the complainants said, noting that Akbar continues to be a ruling party lawmaker and he had not withdrawn the defamation case.

There was also growing discomfiture within the BJP that the allegations against Mr Akbar and his continuation as a minister could have an adverse electoral fallout, especially in urban areas.