New Delhi: The women and child development ministry plans to set up a panel of legal experts to look into the allegations of sexual harassment that have surfaced in the #MeToo campaign, minister Maneka Gandhi said on Friday. Gandhi asserted that she believes in the “pain and trauma" of every complainant and urged more women to come forward and address the issue of sexual harassment and narrate their experiences.
“I believe in all of them. I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complainant," she told PTI in an interview.
“I am proposing to set up a committee with senior judicial and legal persons as members to look into all issues emanating from the #MeToo campaign," Gandhi said.
The committee will look into the legal and institutional framework in place for handling complaints of sexual harassment, including some of the complaints if required, and advise the ministry on how to strengthen these, the minister said. “It takes a lot for women to come out like this. 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 first thing to do is naming and shaming these monsters. Naming and shaming will go a long way in lessening the pain these women have been carrying," she said. The next step, she said, is to set up a committee that would listen to the women.
Gandhi, however, did not comment on the allegations of sexual harassment made by several women journalists against her colleague M.J. Akbar. The minister of state for external affairs, film director Sajid Khan and actor Alok Nath are among those accused of sexual misconduct.
Gandhi said men who sexually harass women depend on them to be shamed into keeping quiet. She said her ministry has created a women-friendly environment in which they can complain to her directly. Even anonymous complaints will be addressed. Gandhi said women could complain through the “She Box" (shebox.nic.in), which provides single-window access to every woman, irrespective of work status, to register complaints related to sexual harassment. Complaints can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, she said. All cases will be closely monitored by the ministry.
“Regarding taking action against those in office, I am really hopeful that the system will react because I believe these complaints are true," Gandhi said. According to her, protecting women has been the watchword of the present government.