Minister Maneka Gandhi.

Minister Maneka Gandhi.

#MeToo momentum: Maneka promises legal panel to examine complaints

More stars take a tumble; Sajid Khan and Nana Patekar step down from film

Agency Report | New Delhi/Mumbai | 12 October, 2018 | 09:50 PM

The Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) has assured the nation that it will set up a legal committee in the wake of the #MeToo campaign, where multiple sexual harassment cases from the media and entertainment industry have come to light.

“The Ministry will be setting up a committee of senior judicial and legal persons as members to examine all issues emanating from the #MeToo India movement,” it said in a statement.

The committee will look into the legal and institutional framework which is in place for handling complaints of sexual harassment at work and will advise the Ministry on how to strengthen this framework.

“I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint. Cases of sexual harassment at work must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance,” said Union WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi.

According to a WCD official, the committee will go into the legal and institutional framework and not based on individual complaints.

“Public hearing doesn’t mean hearing of individual complaints. It means any stakeholders can come and depose before the committee if they want to,” the official added.

The formal order regarding the constitution of the committee will be disclosed in a few days.
Meanwhile, as multiple women came out to share their #MeToo experiences with Sajid Khan, the Bollywood director stepped down from his project “Housefull 4″, actor Akshay Kumar cancelled its shoot, and Sajid’s family members Farah Khan and Farhan Akhtar expressed disappointment.

Sajid has been named by multiple women, including two actresses — Sonali Chopra and Rachel White — and one journalist for sexual misconduct. He has been called out not just for harassment but also for exposing his manhood to women.

In response, Sajid wrote on Twitter: “In the wake of the allegations against me and the pressure being put on my family, my producer and the stars of my film ‘Housefull 4′, I must take the moral responsibility of stepping down from my directorial post, till the time I can allay the allegations and prove the truth… I request my friends in the media to kindly not pass judgement till the truth is out.”

Akshay was disturbed to read about the claims against Sajid, and requested “Housefull 4″ producers to cancel the shoot until further investigation. It is noteworthy that the film also features Nana Patekar, who too is accused of sexual misconduct by actress Tanushree Dutta.

“This is something that requires stringent action. I will not work with any proven offenders and all those who have been subjugated to harassment should be heard and given the justice they deserve,” Akshay added.

The accusations against Sajid are heartbreaking for the family, says his filmmaker-sister Farah Khan.

“This is a heartbreaking time for my family. We have to work through some very difficult issues. If my brother has behaved in this manner he has a lot to atone for. I don’t in any way endorse this behaviour and stand in solidarity with any woman who has been hurt,” she tweeted.

Their cousin, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar said he was “shocked, disappointed and heartbroken” to read stories about Sajid’s behaviour.

“I don’t know how, but he will have to find a way to atone for his alleged actions,” he added,

Several celebrities’ names have cropped up in the #MeToo movement, leading several others to take a stern stand.

Before Akshay, Bollywood star Aamir Khan chose to dissociate from a film as someone involved with the project was accused of sexual assault.

Amid the rising number of cases and accounts in this wave, actor Ajay Devgn tweeted: “I’m disturbed by all the happenings with regards to #MeToo. My company and I believe in providing women with utmost respect and safety. If anyone has wronged even a single woman, neither Ajay Devgn Ffilms nor I will stand for it.”

Actor-producer Riteish Deshmukh expressed support for women who have been “extremely brave” to have shared their stories. “All need to be heard and not judged. I stand with them today.”

“Pink” actress Taapsee Pannu tweeted: “More than the names it’s the description of the way things happened is what is disturbing me the most. Makes me have this terrible feeling that we have discovered only the tip of this iceberg.”

Actor Aparshakti Khurana made a pertinent point.

He said: “It is really unfortunate that we have to start this kind of a movement to bring sexual harassment stories in the forefront. People are expressing their views on social media about this issue, but there is a larger population which is not on social media and they also might be going through these circumstances but they don’t have platform to share their stories.

“So, we also need masses to come out and talk about it. Sometimes people can also take unnecessary advantage of a situation, so, I hope everything is going in the right direction. I am really glad that people are coming out to share their stories which will curb anti-social elements of the society.” (IANS)