A sign reading “#Me Too” lies on the street during a rally against sexual harassment in Shinjuku, Tokyo. (Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Senior Judicial Experts to Examine Flood of India #MeToo Cases

(Bloomberg) -- India’s government will establish a committee of senior judges to examine the flood of sexual harassment complaints against prominent members of the country’s Bollywood film industry, the media and a politician.

A year after the #MeToo movement shook Hollywood, a decade-old sexual misconduct allegation against a popular male movie star in the Hindi film industry was reported to police, sparking a stream of allegations of inappropriate behavior by senior men in India.

“I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint," the Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, wrote in a tweet. "Cases of #sexualharassmentatwork must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance,” she wrote.

Her announcement follows the release of a series of allegations against India’s junior foreign minister and a former editor, M J Akbar, the first politician to be named as the #MeToo movement gained momentum.

The Indian Express reported Wednesday on several women’s allegations of inappropriate behavior by Akbar during his time in the news business, while a first-person account in The Wire alleged that he had sexually harassed a young journalist over many months during his time as editor in the 1990s.

Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar has declined to comment, while Akbar did not respond to emails sent to his work and personal accounts.

Modi’s Cabinet

There is a risk that the government has established the panel in an attempt to control the burgeoning #MeToo movement, which has already spread to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said prominent lawyer and women’s rights activist Vrinda Grover.

"If the government is serious, first let them ask the minister of state M J Akbar to step down," Grover said. "We also know that committees of this kind are often constituted so that the government can control and channelize the conversation, which clearly is now challenging very powerful men."

The committee -- which reports to the Ministry of Women and Child Development -- will examine the legal and institutional framework for handling complaints of sexual harassment at work and recommend how to strengthen the system, Gandhi said.

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