India’s junior foreign minister has announced his resignation following allegations of sexual harassment by a string of women, as the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement gathers pace.
“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 against me,” MJ Akbar, a former newspaper editor, said in a statement on Wednesday.
His resignation comes two days after he filed a lawsuitagainst journalist Priya Ramani who had accused him of sexual harassment. He had termed the allegations against him as “baseless” and “fabricated”.
“Akbar’s resignation was overdue,” Shuma Raha, senior journalist, who had levelled harassment charges against Akbar, told Al Jazeera.
“After more than 20 women came forward with charges of sexual misconduct against him, his continuing as a union minister was untenable. So, yes, better late than never.”
Akbar, 67, a prominent newspaper editor-turned-politician, was the most high-profile figure so far to be named in connection with what is being described as India’s MeToo movement.
The movement, which began in the United States to amplify accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in media and entertainment over a year ago, has picked up pace in India in the past few weeks after a Bollywood actress accused a colleague of inappropriate behaviour on the set of a film they were shooting in 2008.
Since then, over a dozen men from media, entertainment and the art world have been accused of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape. Several media organisations have sacked or sent employees on leave in recent days after a string of similar allegations.
Additional reporting by Zeenat Saberin from New Delhi
Al Jazeera and news agencies