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UN Completes Probe Against Indian Official Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Ravi Karkara

The probe against an Indian employee of UN Women for his alleged involvement in sexual misconduct has been completed by the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) of UNDP and steps have been taken to initiate action. 

While UN Women did not reveal the name of the accused in its statement, addressing the person only as a UN Women staff member, the investigation is believed to have been conducted against Ravi Karkara, Senior Adviser on Strategic Partnerships to the Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director at the agency, who was accused of sexual misconduct by several colleagues, PTI reported. 

“The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has taken immediate steps to initiate appropriate action. She is committed to ensuring that UN Women focuses on a survivor-centred approach in concluding this matter as quickly as possible,” UN Women, an entity of the United Nations that works for gender equality and the empowerment of women, said in a statement issued on Aug.24. 

The statement added that the Executive Director appointed Purna Sen earlier this year as an Executive Coordinator on Sexual Harassment to engage with survivors so that they are supported in a range of areas. 

“While accountability is indispensable, UN Women stands ready to support victims through counselling, psychosocial support and legal assistance,” the statement added. 

UN Women did not clearly state the “appropriate actions” that will be taken against the accused. 

The report against Karkara was said to have been filed in June 2017, but UN Women did not name him in its earlier statements either. In its statement issued in December 2017, the agency said that it has “received allegations of sexual misconduct involving one of its staff members” and that the case is “currently under investigation.” 

In June,2017, Steve Lee, aged 25, had accused the Indian national of sending him numerous messages, some involving pornographic material, grabbing his genitals and mocking his religious beliefs.  

Eight man accused Karkara of using his position to harass them, Newsweek reported in August this year. One among them was Lee, who told the publication that Karkara used to make obscene gestures and ask him inappropriate questions.  

Lee told the publication that Karkara asked him, “Do you look at porn. What kind? What do you think of it? Are you sexually active? Do you masturbate? Have you been practicing?” Lee added that when he asked him to stop talking that way Karkara grabbed him by his genitals through his pants. 

“He does this with a lot of young men, and I don’t really think it’s sexual favors 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 was quoted as saying. 

The Guardian reported last month that Karkara was suspended on full pay pending an internal UN investigation, which ran for more than one year.