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#MeToo impact: Union Minister M J Akbar resigns over complaints of sexual harassment

October 18, 2018

After 19 women journalists stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, Union Minister M J Akbar has finally resigned.

Akbar stepped down from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs on Wednesday. He continues to maintain that he is not guilty of any of the charges levelled against him.

On Monday, Akbar had filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who was one of the complainants. Twenty former and current employees of The Asian Age, where Akbar was once editor, have supported the accusers.

Akbar's resignation comes a day before the defamation case comes up in court. He made a statement saying,

Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country. - M J Akbar, Former Union Minister

Akbar, who was on a foreign tour when the allegations against him surfaced, had said that he would consider legal action against the women who had accused him of sexual harassment. He issued a statement calling the charges false, fabricated and "spiced up by innuendo and malice".

Ramani had described how Akbar had called her to a hotel in Mumbai when she was 23 years old. He was 43 years old at the time. He insisted she meet him in his room and not the hotel lobby. He offered her an alcoholic drink and when she refused, drank himself and sang old Hindi songs to her and asked her to sit close to him.

Many other journalists said that Ramani's statement had exposed the larger atmosphere of "sexual predation" that Akbar fostered at The Asian Age. Many journalists accused him of calling women to his hotel rooms for interviews, or making women feel uncomfortable by seeking to be alone with them.

His decision to step down is seen as a victory of the #MeToo movement. Ramani tweeted, "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court."

There are calls to cancel his Rajya Sabha membership as well. "M J Akbar is still a Rajya Sabha MP. The Speaker should cancel his membership. Ethics committee needs to recommend," said another journalist, Swati Chaturvedi.

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