I was a victim of sexual harassment in India, today I rejoice

NEW DELHI: I didn’t even know I was holding my breath until my phone screen showed the message “Priya Ramani is cleared.” And then my Twitter timeline exploded with happiness, tears, and hope, from women I know, women I don’t know. But we were united by a euphoria that felt deeply personal in a country where women are used to daily defeat and disappointment.

What happened on Wednesday afternoon was that an Indian court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case brought against her by a former government minister. In 2018, during a #MeToo wave in the country, Ramani had alleged in a social media post that she was sexually harassed in 1993 by MJ Akbar, then a top newspaper editor, when he called her to a hotel in Mumbai for a job. interview. Following their allegations, more than 20 women had come forward to file sexual misconduct charges against Akbar, who was then a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.

The accusations led Akbar to resign as minister, but not before bringing a criminal defamation case, using archaic colonial-era law, against Ramani. Over the past two years, we have all watched the case unfold with nervous anticipation because the future of the #MeToo movement in India, as well as the campaign for safer workplaces for women in the country, depended on the outcome of this case. If they silenced her, we would all be silenced. Following the defamation lawsuit, many voices had already fallen silent and the #MeToo movement had petered out.


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