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  India   All India  13 Oct 2018  Maneka Gandhi to set up panel to look into #MeToo charges

Maneka Gandhi to set up panel to look into #MeToo charges

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Oct 13, 2018, 1:22 am IST
Updated : Oct 13, 2018, 1:22 am IST

Former journalism intern calls out MJ; Rahul backs women’s campaign.

Regarding taking action against those who are in office, I am really hopeful that the system will react because I believe that these complaints are true: Maneka Gandhi, WCD minister
 Regarding taking action against those who are in office, I am really hopeful that the system will react because I believe that these complaints are true: Maneka Gandhi, WCD minister

New Delhi: While the BJP continued to maintain a stoic silence, Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi on Friday proposed a four-member judicial committee comprising of retired judges to look into the allegations of sexual assaults under the ongoing #MeToo campaign. Congress president Rahul Gandhi also came out in support of the #MeToo movement, saying it is time for the truth to be told “loud and clear in order to bring about change”.

Neither Ms Gandhi nor the Congress president commented on the charges of sexual harassment against Union minister M.J. Akbar, who has been accused by several former women colleagues of sexual harassment when he served as editor at various media organisations.

Ms Gandhi only made an oblique reference by saying, “Regarding taking action against those who are in office, I am really hopeful that the system will react because I believe that these complaints are true.” The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanded Mr Akbar’s ouster and the setting up of an investigation committee to probe people who have been accused of sexual misconduct. In a fresh allegation against Mr Akbar, a European former journalism intern Majlie de Puy Kamp, who worked under Mr Akbar in The Asian Age in 2007, has levelled charges of misbehaviour against him.

“He grabbed me right under my shoulders, on my arms, and pulled me in and kissed me on my mouth and forced his tongue into my mouth, and I just stood there,” she wrote in an email, recalling a horrific incident that took place on the last day of her internship.

Mr Akbar was 55 years old at the time and she was 18.  She had met Mr Akbar through her parents who had worked as foreign correspondents in Delhi in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the Union women and child development minister said that she believes in the “pain and trauma” of every complainant and urged more women to come out and address the issue of sexual harassment and narrate their experiences.

“I am proposing to set up a committee with senior judicial and legal persons as members to look into all issues emanating from the #MeToo campaign,” Ms Gandhi told a news agency in an interview.

The committee will look into the legal and institutional framework in place for handling complaints of sexual harassment, including some of the complaints if required, and advise the ministry on how to strengthen these.

“It takes a lot for women to come out like this. These cases have been elephants in the rooms for the last 25 years. The question here is how can they prove these after all these years... They have faced verbal assault, they have been touched, pinched, their clothes have been pulled...The first thing to do is naming and shaming these monsters. Naming and shaming will go a long way in lessening the pain these women have been carrying,” she said.

The next step, she said, is to set up a committee that can listen to the women.

Urging women to come out with their stories, Ms Gandhi said men who sexually harass them depend on them to be shamed into keeping quiet.  

She said that her ministry has created a woman-friendly environment in which they can complain to her directly and even file anonymous complaints.

Ms Gandhi said women could complain through the She Box (www.shebox.nic.in), which provides a single window  access to every woman, irrespective of her work status to register complaints related to sexual harassment.

Complaints can also be lodged at , she said. All the cases will be closely monitored by the ministry.

According to the minister, protecting women has been the watchword of the present government with the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign being one of its flagship sche-mes. “The PM has always given top priority to the rights of women. The first programme that he launched was ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’. We don’t save our daughters to allow big shots to insult them later in life...I will do what I can do to help them,” she said.

“They should speak out and in one jolt finish off this matter altogether so that men are frightened from ever sexually assaulting or making women uncomfortable,” she said.

The Congress president showed solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment, saying “It’s about time everyone learns to treat women with respect and dignity. I’m glad the space for those who don’t, is closing,” The Congress on Friday demanded that Mr Akbar should come clean on the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him and said his silence would mean that the charges are true.

“The minister who is facing allegations (of sexual harassment) should come forward and speak out whether the allegations against him are wrong or right, so that you all (journalists) and society (can) draw a conclusion,” Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said in Bhopal.

Tags: maneka gandhi, rahul gandhi, #metoo, #metoo campaign, #metoo movement