An Indian official working for the United Nations' body for the empowerment of women is under investigation after eight men have accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct. The accused is said to be an Indian national but not an Indian government official or a diplomat.
Even though the senior advisor is being investigated, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women or UN Women, has refused to discuss the details of the case.
We cannot confirm nor deny the subject's name and we cannot comment on any specifics of the case, as that could harm the investigation and disciplinary process," the Press Trust of India quoted the UN Women as saying.
"UN Women continues to ensure that the case is investigated thoroughly and receiving the priority it deserves. We recognise the gravity with which such cases should be treated and have taken the allegations very seriously at every stage," it added.
In December 2017, the UN Women had spoken about one of its officials facing sexual misconduct allegations, but hadn't named the official even then.
However, the official has been identified as Ravi Karkara by Newsweek. He is a senior advisor and has reportedly worked for Indian diplomat Lakshmi Puri, who was earlier the assistant secretary-general for intergovernmental support and strategic partnerships at UN Women.
While the body may have refused to divulge details of the case, the UN has hinted that the Newsweek report is true. Without naming the accused or discussing his post, Farhan Haq, a UN spokesperson, told PTI: "I would not dispute any of the information contained in the Newsweek article. I can confirm that the individual from UN Women has been under investigation."
As the investigations are ongoing, the official has reportedly been placed on "administrative leave" and is not working in any kind of official capacity at present. He remains on UN's payroll as of now, but the UN body had assured of disciplinary action against the accused if charges leveled against him are proved. UN Women has said that action may also include sanctions on the official.
Accusations against Karkara
Though Karkara is yet to comment on the reports, the victims have spoken about the abuse. One of the victims is said to be 25-year-old policy activist Steve Lee, who complaint led to the investigation. He is said to have spoken on record about Karkara in the hopes that it would end the abuse – not just for him, but for all those affected – and lead to better hiring standards and checks.
Lee is said to have been 16 when he first met Karkara in 2009 as a UNICEF delegate. The two then met several times over the years but Karkara reportedly "grabbed Lee by his genitals through his pants" when they met in his hotel room in 2016.
He does this with a lot of young men, and I don't really think it's sexual favours he's looking for. He enjoys the fact that he's at a position of such high authority that he can do this and they can't really do anything about it," Lee told Newsweek.
The publication also spoke to a few other sources who said that Karkara had groped a male subordinate, used sexually suggestive language, sent them pornography links and used his position for all of it.
The Guardian is also said to have spoken to a few of its sources, who said that Karkara "abused his position of power to take advantage of young people who feared speaking out against the honour of an organisation they aspired to be a part of".