At least eight men have accused Ravi Karkara, a senior adviser for United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, of sexual misconduct.
An investigation is currently underway against the official, and the United Nations has “a job of work to do” to reform its culture and restore trust, a spokesperson of the organisation said, reported News Week.
Karkara is the senior adviser to Lakshmi Puri, former Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
A civil servant at the United Nations, Karkara is not an Indian diplomat.
According to Newsweek, multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation said that Karkara has been accused of using his prestige and position to sexually harass them. He is yet to comment on the matter.
In December 2017, the United Nations informed that it had been investigating, since June 2017, a case of sexual misconduct without identifying the subject by name. No charges have been filed in the 13-month ongoing investigation.
On July 26, a spokesperson for the United Nations entity, also known as UN-Women, said that the probe’s “subject remains on administrative leave”. While still on UN payroll, the person “is not currently performing any active function,” the spokesperson added.
An official from the organisation confirmed on August 1 that an investigation is ongoing, but they declined to comment on whether Karkara was the subject of the probe.
The UN-Women is the youngest division of the United Nations, becoming a distinct branch in 2011. Aimed at setting global standards for seeking gender equality, UN-Women helps member countries turn those standards into laws, policies and programs.
Mandy Sanghera and Kerry Gibson, international human rights activists and U.N. Women Planet 50-50 Champions, have confirmed that Karkara, who is currently on "administrative leave" from UN-Women, is the subject of the investigation.
Along with an alleged victim, Gibson filed complaints that started the investigation, while Sanghera learned of it through a former United Nations official and confirmed it with several alleged victims.
Meanwhile, two other former staffers with knowledge of the investigation have confirmed that Karkara is the subject of the probe, as did one of his alleged victims whom the investigators from the organisation interviewed 13 months ago.
Calling Karkara a “predator,” Sanghera told News Week: “What’s finally coming to light is a long pattern of inappropriate sexual behaviour.”
Sanghera, Gibson and Steve Lee (an alleged victim) said the sexual misconduct accusations against Karkara include touching or grabbing a subordinate’s genitals in a hotel room, using work devices to send pornography and follow-up questions to male subordinates, creating a climate of sexual innuendo and obscene gestures in the workplace, and using his position and access as leverage to initiate sexual encounters.
They claim that Karkara is also accused of nonsexual harassment and abuse of power for his conduct with subordinates in and out of the workplace.
According to the US publication, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Office of Audit and Investigation is running the investigation and will ultimately submit its report to the development program’s Legal Support Office to determine whether disciplinary proceedings, administrative actions or a public reporting of findings are warranted.
Even if charged locally in state or federal court, Karkara could avoid punishment if he has diplomatic immunity.