The Delhi High Court acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in a defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar. The verdict is a historic win for the long struggle by women, for equality at the workplace.
In 2018, Ramani accused Akbar on Twitter, of harassment in a hotel room in 1993, when she was a young reporter and he was an established newspaper editor. Following that, 20 women accused Akbar of serious sexual misconduct during his time as editor.
Akbar had filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, who had to face his team of over 90 lawyers. This significant victory for the #MeToo Movement demonstrates that it is still possible to stand up to powerful people and sexual predators and obtain justice. The court said a woman has “a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.”
“It’s great to have your truth validated in the court of Law,” said Priya Ramani while speaking to Mojo.
“My victory will encourage more women to speak up,” she said. Ramani declared that the victory belongs to everyone, including the women who spoke alongside her and those who spoke during the #MeToo movement.
“Ramani did the unusual thing of taking a stand even if she was accused of a crime,” said her lawyer Rebecca John.
Rebecca stated that it was the most important case of her career, because Ramani refused to compromise or settle the matter. It was critical to contest this case because it involved more than one woman who stood up and behind her.
Ramani had to speak her truth in a place she was unfamiliar with. And convincing everyone in the room was difficult, because it required educating them at times and placing evidence on record.
Rebecca also stated that it is a time for reflection because so many cases go unnoticed and the humiliation women face as a result of rape, is brutal. The solidarity I saw in both men and women gives me great hope,” said Rebecca.
Priya stated that the most difficult aspect of the process was being on the other side. “It was difficult that I wasn’t behind the scenes, but rather the accused.”
She also stated that she is willing to continue fighting, if necessary, but that she has done her part by telling the story.
There was an overwhelming support for her, with women rallying behind her. Ramani never expected to name him, but one year later when she saw younger women with less privilege calling out their harassers on Twitter, she felt a sense of responsibility to speak up as she comes from a place of privilege.
“I did feel exhausted, stressed, anxious, and weary sometimes. But I felt it was better for me than someone else,” she said.
Rebecca believes that employers should be held to a higher standard when it comes to conducting background checks in the workplace. There should be a column for previous offences for which you have been charged. Ramani’s message to her younger self and all the young girls out there is to never be afraid to speak up.