Indian minister resigns to fight sexual harassment accusations

Indian minister in #MeToo storm announces resignation

President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday accepted MJ Akbar's resignation as Minister of State in External Affairs a day ahead of the hearing of his criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani at Delhi's Patiala House court. I have therefore tendered my resignation from the office of MoS external affairs.

He also expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for giving him the opportunity to serve the country.

Over the last fortnight, about 20 women have come forward to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar.

Union Minister MJ Akbar has resigned following allegations of sexual harassment that surfaced in the context of the #MeToo movement.

On Tuesday, a group of 19 women journalists wrote a petition urging the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar as part of the case against Ramani. Highly-placed sources who did not wish to be identified, however, said the decision "came from the very top" and "the extent of the allegations and Akbar's own aggressive reaction made the party high command believe this was getting untenable".

"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. "When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do" anything.'", Akbar said.

He is one of the most prominent among many men accused in recent weeks of sexual harassment or abuse, including bestselling authors, senior journalists, comedians and actors. In that piece, Ramani had written that Akbar had called her to his hotel room when she was 23 and he was 43 for a job interview which was "more date, less interview".

The Congress Party said Mr Akbar's "belated resignation is a result of the persistent pressure put by women who have shared their horrific and uncomfortable stories". While it is true that the instances referred to where the Minister was allegedly involved refer to the period before the POSH Act came into effect, it is also a fact that the Vishakha Guidelines were in force when at least three (and possibly more) of these incidents are said to have taken place.

But if he doesn't, or in case he files such cases against other women too, the Guild offers its support to them.

"As women we feel vindicated by M.J. Akbar's resignation". He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2016.

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.

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