By Isabelle Gerretsen
LONDON, Dec 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The resignation of a British lord found guilty of sexual harassment by two parliamentary inquiries should hopefully give other people the courage to speak out, the woman at the centre of the country's latest political sex scandal said on Wednesday.
Women's rights campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera waived her anonymity last month to name Lord Lester as the member of parliament's upper house who sexually harassed her 12 years ago, offering to make her a baroness if she had sex with him.
Anthony Lester, 82, once an eminent human rights lawyer, initially won the backing of many of his peers in the unelected House of Lords and his proposed suspension was blocked.
But he announced his resignation ahead of the release from a second parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday that upheld that he had sexually harassed Sanghera and prepared to suspend him until June 2022 - the longest such suspension in modern history.
Announcing his resignation, Lester denied all allegations and cited the toll the inquiries had taken on his health.
Sanghera said she had received wide support from others working at the House of Lords and other organisations as she was accused of lying during the investigations.
"Other women have approached me with their experiences of sexual harassment in the House of Lords involving other people," she said in a statement.
"I hope that anyone who wishes to make a complaint in future will now be confident that they will receive a fair hearing and will not be bombarded with all the ill-founded allegations and challenges that have been made in this case."
Sanghera, who wrote about her escape from a forced marriage in her book "Shame", said she kept quiet about the harassment for years because she doubted she would be believed.
Britain's parliament last year became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal amid the #MeToo movement with two ministers losing their posts and others investigated over inappropriate behaviour, prompting calls to end a "locker room" culture.
A study this year showed nearly one in five people working in Britain's parliament were sexually harassed or witnessed inappropriate behaviour in the past year.
Sanghera, founder of the charity Karma Nirvana which campaigns against forced marriage, told the investigation that Lester repeatedly groped her 12 years ago, despite her protests, when they were working on draft legislation.
She said Lester promised to make her a baroness "within a year" if she slept with him, but would ensure she never had a seat in the House of Lords if she refused.
The parliamentary committee issued its second report on Lester on Wednesday because the House last month voted against its recommendation to ban him, instead returning the matter to the committee for further consideration.
"Lord Lester has made the right decision in retiring from the House of Lords," a spokeswoman for Lester's Liberal Democrat party said. (Reporting by Isabelle Gerretsen @izzygerretsen; Editing by Katy Migiro and Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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