Mumbai: Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday supported women coming out with their stories of sexual harassment at workplace, saying that they go to work to live their dreams and earn their living respectfully and not to get harassed.
Irani was interacting with the media at a FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) event here. The #MeToo movement exploded in Bollywood, media, politics and corporate sector after actress Tanushree Dutta renewed a decade-old complaint of harassment against Nana Patekar two weeks ago. Filmmaker Vikas Bahl, singer Kailash Kher, actors Rajat Kapoor and Alok Nath, and journalist-turned-politician M.J. Akbar are among those named as alleged predators.
Being a former television actress herself, Irani said: “Women don’t go to work to be harassed. They go to work to live their dreams and to earn a respectable living. So, it must be difficult for them to come out and talk about whatever happened in their professional life. “It is an extremely important phase (in the evolution) of our society where more and more women are getting support, so that they can speak out and I feel that there are enough instruments in our judicial and police system to deliver justice. I am hopeful that all these ladies speaking out will get the justice they deserve.”
As the #MeToo campaign gained momentum, some women journalists also accused M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, of sexually harassing them during his stint as editor in two newspapers. Reacting on the accusations of sexual assault levelled against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Irani said: “The gentleman concerned would be in better position to speak on this issue. “I appreciate that the media is accosting his (former) female colleagues, but I think it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement not for me, because I was personally not present there. But I have said again and again that the women speaking out should in no way feel ashamed.
“Anybody who is speaking out shouldn’t be victimized or mocked at. That is my only appeal to everybody who is witnessing this surge of outpouring of emotions, of anger on the internet and offline as well.” Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting on the NDA government to sack Akbar. Political parties like the Congress and the CPI(M) have demanded his resignation.