"It's For The Gentleman To Speak": Smriti Irani On MJ Akbar, #MeToo

On #MeToo, Smriti Irani said it must be difficult for women to speak out.

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Smriti Irani said people who are speaking out should not be shamed.


New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Smriti Irani parried questions about MJ Akbar resigning from government
  2. MJ Akbar has been accused by seven women of sexual harassment
  3. Smriti Irani noted that it must be difficult for women to speak out

Smriti Irani today joined a growing list of union ministers confronting questions about colleague MJ Akbar, who is abroad at a time sex harassment allegations have surfaced against him. MJ Akbar would be "in a better position to speak" on the allegations, Smriti Irani said, deftly parrying questions about whether the junior foreign minister would be asked to exit the government.

"I think the gentleman concerned would be in a better position to speak. I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues, but I think that it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me as I was not present there," said the Textile Minister.

"My only appeal is that anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, victimised or mocked," she stressed, strongly supporting women who had come out and shared their stories in the ongoing #MeToo campaign in India. The only other minister to come out in support of the movement is her colleague Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development. "There should be an investigation... Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously," Mrs Gandhi had said.

Today, Smriti Irani noted that it must be difficult for women to speak out. "Women go to work to live their dreams and earn a respectable living. More and more women are winning support. I feel there are enough instruments to deliver justice. Hope these women get justice," she said.

MJ Akbar, a former editor who headed prominent newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age, has been accused of sexually predatory behavior towards women colleagues, especially newcomers.

So far, his boss, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, has evaded questions on him and so has union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Prominent faces in various professions, including the media, films, television and colleges, have been caught in the #MeToo whirlwind as India finally catches up with a movement that began a year ago, when allegations exploded against Oscar winning movie maker Harvey Weinstein.

At least seven women journalists have come out with accounts against MJ Akbar, prompting calls for his resignation from the Congress and other parties.

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