Another Sex Scandal

Sex crime allegations against Tehelka’s editor-in-chief and proprietor Tarun Tejpal, a media celebrity in India have been made.

It's somewhat of an irony for a magazine that has run hard-hitting exposes of high-profile figures involved in sex crimes, but finds itself accused of double standards in the way it's treating its own famous founder, now he is an alleged perpetrator.

In the process, the scandal is reviving the debate about how India treats sex crimes in particular and women in general.

Many are astonished though that of all organizations, it should be Tehelka - which means "sensation" - sparking this firestorm.

The magazine is synonymous in India with campaigning investigative journalism, with a string of high-profile scalps going back 13 years.

It led the way in coverage of the Delhi gang rape case, with its managing editor Shoma Choudhury writing an in-depth piece on male attitudes to sex crimes.

Now she finds herself in the uncomfortable position of being accused of glossing over such views, after her email to staff described Tejpal's actions as "an untoward incident".

And the magazine's same exacting standards are now being applied to Tehelka.

Under pressure, it has set up a committee to look into the allegations - a body it was already supposed to have in place under laws to prevent sexual harassment.

But that's unlikely to appease critics who have called its initial response of allowing Tejpal to apologise to the employee and then step aside for six months as a "whitewash".

Ms Choudhury released a statement saying she condemns sexual harassment and that she acted in accordance with the wishes of the colleague who made the accusation.

But she has also said that she will not co-operate with any investigation by police in Goa - where the assaults are alleged to have taken place in early November - unless the alleged victim launches a formal complaint.

But what made things even worse is the conditional tone of Tarun Tejpal's supposedly unconditional apology - in which he talks about "a bad lapse of judgment" and critically "an awful misreading of the situation".

It left the impression in many eyes that he was suggesting the woman bore some of the blame - echoing a mindset that Tehelka is usually the first to condemn.

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