An exclusive interview with journalist Priya Ramani by CNN News18’s Marya Shakil after the acquittal in defamation case by M J Akbar. Here are the excerpts:
Q: Many are saying that this is smashing the patriarchy moment, many say that this is the watershed moment for the #MeToo movement in India. What's your thought?
Priya Ramani: I want to thank court for very empowering verdict. Women should speak up more, they should not be scared. It feels amazing to have my truth validated in the court of law after two and a half years.
I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulder. Happy for all the women who spoke for me and #MeToo movement.
Q: Priya, I am looking at certain key takeaways of this verdict. One point being made is that the right to dignity is greater than right of reputation. What is the most crucial aspect of this verdict?
Priya Ramani: I feel it's a very important verdict. Overwhelmed at the initial reaction. The verdict will empower more women to speak up. Hope this will discourage powerful men from filing false cases against women who speak the truth.
Q: Priya most offences are cognizable, serious offences including the one reported by Ghazala Wahab. Should there be a criminal prosecution now?
Priya Ramani: #MeToo was not about criminal prosecution, it was about sharing stories that they have kept hidden. It's just about speaking up truth. When you look at twitter, you will find same story in every corner of the world. There are echoes of the story across the world.
Q: Women can speak about the sexual harassment after years is what the court has said. But was that easy for you, other women had to take the stand to prove and back your story?
Priya Ramani: I spoke because women before me spoke and I hope I inspired more women. My story came after two other journalists spoke about their experiences of sexual harassment. Then a few women spoke about MJ Akbar. It was just a powerful spontaneous moment for me.
Q: Was it tough to almost relive those moments in the court, for Gazala and for Nilofer, all of you recounting those very horrific terrible stories?
Priya Ramani: Specially it was Gazala, her story was painful. Every time her lawyers spoke in the court, the opposing lawyers were sniggering. It’s a very powerful moment for us that a court upholds our truth.
Q: Last question to you Priya, What is a bigger victory? The fact that the culture of silence has broken or that the courts are more willing to listen and understand that it may take longer for women to speak up, even decades to gather that strength.
Priya Ramani: The judgment was important and it will be used again and again. The culture of silence was not broken today. The movement was coined in 1996. Millions of women have spoken in the last few years. More women will continue to speak up.