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Sunday 17 December 2017
Commentary

Tiptoeing on sexual harassment

Sandrine Rattan writes a weekly column for the Newsday called With Women in Mind. 

I am not your dog that you whistle for; I’m not a stray animal you call over, and I’m not, I never have been nor will I ever be your baby –Joy Jennings

Over the last couple weeks, conversations and debates were en masse throughout various spaces including the media. Red-flagging this very common occurrence was the recent incident involving allegations made against an executive of Angostura Holdings Ltd.

Let me preface my piece today by stating quite early that sexual intercourse begins with consensus by two individuals to engage in same, and therefore, actions such as rape and harassment which denote forceful engagement, do not form part of that agreement.

Though sexual harassment is usually referenced to the work environment, scores of women from across the globe reach out to the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN) voicing concerns regarding their experience of sexual harassment in their communities and even within their family network.

With specific reference to the work environment in which it is the most prevalent, the issue is best addressed through established protocols and policies that clearly define the process to be followed. In the absence of defined rules and guidelines, a tiptoed and unstructured approach will be used which usually produces unpleasant outcomes at most to the detriment of the victim and victim-blaming at best where the victim shoulders the burden of guilt.

Addressing this sore subject requires a direct and distinct focus on the “what” and less on the “who”. Once focus is directed on the who, as we’ve witnessed recently, players involved begin tiptoeing around to avoid offending particular parties and particular spaces. There are numerous instances where women, based on their social circumstances, are sexually harassed by men to the extent that the situation can be labelled as “blackmail.”

The dark ages are no longer, and so women need to be forthright, say no and mean no, stand up and speak out when affected by tinges of gender-based violence, all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment. There is a mythical view that sexual harassment is influenced by women based on their attire. This notion is totally false as such a view denotes that men do not understand how to control their emotions and urges, and are also challenged in understanding their boundaries.

While women need to respect themselves, they must also enjoy the greatest of levels of safety and freedom without interruptions from unnecessary evils. Keep in mind that a continued stream of occurrences of sexual harassment can easily lead to rape and sexual assault.

The Angostura incident should indeed be a lesson for both public and private sector organisations to immediately begin establishing a sexual harassment policy so as to avoid their own embarrassment. In the same vein that employer/employee issues are handled and guided by institutional policies, similarly those of a sexual nature should be addressed with justice and/or disciplinary action being served in accordance with the particular act.

Today the IWRN is issuing a public appeal to women who feel intimidated by experiences of sexual harassment, discrimination or victimisation to call our hotlines at 283-0318 or 268-6078.

Sandrine Rattan is a communications and branding consultant, author, empowerment builder and president of the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN) Contact: thecorporatesuitett@gmail.com or intlwomensresourcenetwork@gmail.com

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