Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has called for an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Minister of State (MoS) External Affairs MJ Akbar, becoming the first government minister to do so.
“There must be an investigation. Men in position of power often indulge in such acts,” Maneka told a news channel, reacting to allegations levelled on the editor-turned-politician by at least two women journalists.
Maneka noted that women in India have so far been scared to speak up against such behaviour. “Now when women have gathered the courage to speak up, the allegations must be taken seriously,” she said.
Maneka, however, stopped short of calling for Akbar’s resignation.
She also reiterated her earlier stand that all sort of allegations of sexual misconduct must be investigated whenever they come to light, no matter how dated they are. “I even wrote to the Law Ministry to scrap the time frame clause in the law as far as sexual harassment allegations are concerned,” said Maneka.
So far, there hasn’t been any statement from the Prime Minister and other leading members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), even as clamour for resignation of Akbar grows.
“Seriously so no code of conduct applies to central ministers in PMO India cabinet(.) How is Akbar a fit & proper person to represent India? #Metoo,” wrote a senior journalist on Twitter. The scribe was among two journalists who have accused Akbar of sexual misconduct during his time as editor of a leading English daily.
She later claimed that BJP President Amit Shah had asked all BJP spokespersons to not react on allegations against Akbar.
The Editors Guild of India, the apex body of editorial leaders, has also demanded an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct that are surfacing in different newsrooms, including against Akbar.
Earlier in the day, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj refused to comment on accusations against Akbar at an event at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Officials at the MEA, however, confided that Akbar must speak out on the allegations.