Union Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday lent her support to the women who have come out to speak of harassment as part of the #MeToo movement in India. She declined to speak on charges against junior foreign minister MJ Akbar and stressed that it was for him “to issue a statement” on the allegations.
At least six women have accused Akbar of harassment when he was a journalist.
“The gentlemen concerned would be better positioned to speak on this issue. I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues but I think it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement because I was personally not present there,” Smriti Irani, the first union minister to speak on sexual harassment allegations against MJ Akbar, said.
Akbar, who is travelling outside India, so far has not commented on the allegations.
MJ Akbar’s boss, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had earlier declined to comment on the allegations.
So far, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi was the only prominent minister to have spoken on the #Metoo groundswell. “Men who are in positions of power often do this. And it applies to the media as well as to politics or senior personnel in companies,” Gandhi told TV news channel here on Tuesday, according to news agency PTI.
The Congress has already demanded that Akbar either come up with a satisfactory counter to the charges or resign. There have been demands from other opposition parties that he resign as well and through the day, there has been speculation that the party would need some answers too.
But there have been many voices that have questioned the women who spoke out. One of them was the BJP law maker Udit Raj.
Smriti Irani disapproved attempts to mock women who had come forward.
“I have said again and again on this particular issue, particularly on women speaking out, that anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, anybody speaking out should in no way be victimised or mocked. That is my only appeal to everybody who is witnessing this surge of outpouring, of emotions, of anger, on the Internet and offline also,” she told reporters.
The #MeToo movement, which started from the United States where Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct last year, has snowballed in India too after actor Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the sets of a film in 2008.