Judges' Panel To Handle #MeToo Cases, Says Minister Maneka Gandhi

A series of accounts from women, accusing public figures of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct, have emerged in India triggering an uprising called the #MeToo movement.

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Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said the government will form a committee to hear the #MeToo cases in India.

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Panel of judges to examine, advise centre on sexual harassment cases
  2. Sexual harassment at work must be dealt with zero tolerance: Minister
  3. Public figures, including her cabinet colleague, are accused in #MeToo

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today said that the government will form a committee of judges to advise it on cases of sexual assault and harassment widely publicised as part of the #MeToo movement that has swept India. "I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint. Cases of sexual harassment at work must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance," Ms Gandhi said in a statement.

"We have formed a group of judges that will examine some of the cases in a free and independent style and advise them and us where to go from here," she said.

Earlier this week, Ms Gandhi, the union minister for women and child development, became the first BJP leader to call for an investigation against junior foreign minister and former editor MJ Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment.

"There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously," Ms Gandhi told news channel India Today when asked about allegations surfacing against a "big" politician on Tuesday.

In contrast, Mr Akbar's boss, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj did not respond when she was asked about the allegations against Mr Akbar.

Maneka Gandhi has also said that sex harassment complaints should be allowed even 10-15 years later.

"You will always remember the person who did it, which is why we have written to the Law Ministry that complaints should be without any time limit," she said on Monday.

"You can now complain 10-15 years later, doesn't matter how much later. If you're going to complain the avenue is still open," she said, adding that "anger at sexual molestation never goes away".

The #MeToo movement in India was sparked by allegations of former actor Tanushree Dutta, who accused veteran Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a film 10 years ago.

It set off a roaring debate on social media, and a thread on Twitter became a forum for #MeToo stories from various fields, sparing no one - film personalities, writers, journalists and entertainers.

The global #MeToo movement emerged about a year ago after allegations against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein encouraged many women - and men - to come out with their experience of being exploited or attacked sexually.

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