I Was a Victim of Sexual Harassment in India, Today I Rejoice

NEW DELHI—I didn’t even know I was holding my breath until my phone screen flashed the message “Priya Ramani is acquitted.” And then my Twitter timeline exploded with happiness, tears and hope—from women I know, women I don’t know. But today we were bound by an elation that felt deeply personal in a country where women are used to daily defeats and disappointments.

What happened on Wednesday afternoon was that an Indian court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed against her by a former government minister. In 2018, during a #MeToo wave in the country, Ramani had alleged in a social media post that she was sexually harassed in 1993 by MJ Akbar, then a top newspaper editor, when he had called her to a hotel in Mumbai for a job interview. Following her allegations, over twenty other women had come forward to make sexual misconduct allegations against Akbar—who was then a minister in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.

The allegations led Akbar to step down as minister, but not before he filed a criminal defamation case—an archaic, colonial era law—against Ramani. Over the last two years, we have all watched the case unfold with nervous anticipation because the future of the #MeToo movement in India as well as the campaign for safer workplaces for women in the country hinged on the outcome of this case. If she was silenced, we would all be silenced. Following the defamation suit, many voices had already been quieted and the #MeToo movement had petered out.

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