New Delhi: The #MeToo movement has intensified in the country with more women recounting their experiences of sexual harassment, largely in the entertainment and media industry. The first political name to find a place on the list of offenders is that of Union Minister M J Akbar, though his roots can also be traced to the media industry where he worked as an editor for a newspaper for years before shifting focus to active politics.
As many as six women have accused the Minister of State for External Affairs of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour when he worked as a newspaper editor, according to a report in The Indian Express.
There was no reaction available from Akbar on these allegations against him, who is on a visit to Nigeria with a trade delegation.
When asked about these charges against her ministerial colleague and whether there will be an internal inquiry against him, Swaraj evaded the question from reporters on the sidelines of an event in the national capital.
At a regular party briefing, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was also asked a volley of questions on the issue but he declined to respond.
He said his mandate was to speak on the specific issue of the Congress role in allegedly fomenting violence against migrants in Gujarat.
Amid the government remaining mum over allegations of sexual harassment against Akbar, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi became the first BJP leader to call for an investigation against him.
“There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,” Gandhi told India Today.
“Women are scared of speaking out thinking people will make fun of them or question their character. Now that women are speaking up we should take action on each and every allegation,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Congress also demanded a probe into the allegations against Akbar.
“It is an extremely serious matter and the minister concerned needs to speak up. Silence cannot be a way out. This matter should be investigated. We would like to hear from both the minister in question and the Prime Minister on this issue,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.
As the debate around what constitutes sexual harassment and concerns over due process intensified across newsrooms, drawing rooms and social media platforms, several senior journalists joined the list of those “named and shamed” by women.
Expressing its gratitude and solidarity towards women journalists for their courage, the Editors Guild said in a statement that it is committed to ensuring that the legal rights the victims and the accused are not violated.
“The Guild extends its total support to all women journalists, who suffered a disadvantage in their careers, physical or mental trauma, as a result of any sexual predation,” it said.
The movement started in India after actor Tanushree Dutta alleged that well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar sexually harassed her on the sets of a movie in 2008. Since then, many women have come out in public to share their experiences of harassment.