The Ministry of Women and Child Development on Friday said that it will set up a committee to look into matters arising from the #MeToo campaign, in which women have taken to social media to disclose cases of sexual misconduct.
The committee will comprise senior members from the judiciary and the legal fraternity, and will look into the framework in place to handle complaints of harassment at work, the ministry said in a tweet.
Union minister Maneka Gandhi said that cases of sexual harassment at work must be “dealt with a policy of zero tolerance”. “I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint,” she said. The committee will also look at some of the complaints, if necessary, and will advise Gandhi’s ministry on how to strengthen the legal framework dealing with them, PTI quoted her as saying.
Gandhi said men who indulge in sexual harassment need to be named and shamed first. “It takes a lot for women to come out like this,” she told PTI. “These cases have been elephants in the rooms for the last 25 years. The question here is how can they prove these after all these years... they have faced verbal assault, they have been touched, pinched, their clothes have been pulled.”
The minister for women and child development said her ministry had established itself as a safe platform to address their complaints. She said women who wish to report sexual harassment cases can file their complaints on www.shebox.nic.in or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Gandhi did not directly comment on allegations against Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, she said, “Regarding taking action against those that are in office, I am really hopeful that the system will react because I believe that these complaints are true.”
She requested people to refrain from mocking those who have been sharing their experiences of sexual harassment on social media.
On Monday, Gandhi had said she was glad that women were coming forward with complaints, while she asked the law ministry to remove a time limit on reporting child sexual abuse.
Since October 5, dozens of women have gone public with allegations of sexual harassment, including against eminent names in the media, film and music industry, and minister MJ Akbar as well. Some of those accused have stepped down from positions at work, including former Hindustan Times editor Prashant Jha. The movement has drawn plenty of support, but criticism as well.