Protests show why we must say no to sexual harassment

Hundreds of people march around the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on February 7 calling for legal changes to grant better protection to women and girls following the death of Andrea Bharatt. - Vidya Thurab
Hundreds of people march around the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on February 7 calling for legal changes to grant better protection to women and girls following the death of Andrea Bharatt. - Vidya Thurab

The march was very impressive seen from above: hundreds of men, women and children, all dressed in black, except for one wee girl in a red patterned dress that, even videoed from a drone flying overhead, stood out.

And it was real. This was not a staged political protest. This was not a trade union or students’ protest. It was real.

It was not even about Andrea, although it was about all of the above as well. It was about the genuine distress and horror that honest, down-to-earth, ordinary people feel about what they are waking up to realise is pervasive in our society – the devaluation of women.

There were police in plainclothes. There were clerks from the judicial system. There were lawyers. There were hundreds of people whose pain started with the murder of Andrea, reached back to the murder of Ashanti Riley just two months ago, and to that of the torture of the young Ramirez sisters by Mano Benjamin decades before that, way back to the disappearance of Juliet Tam on her way back from the gym, 36 years ago.

No evidence was ever found to link anyone to that, either.

Just like the redoubtable Gary Griffith said that he had not received any information linking the murder of Andrea to the bail fraud that she had reported to her superiors. There is information on that report, surely?

The first time I knew of the bail racket – you know the one? Where someone goes into the bailing “business” with a deed to a property that may, in fact, be to a property his mother owned, and then uses it for surety to stand bail for people who cannot afford their own. Then uses it for a second person and then a third? For each and every strike he (or she) collects thousands of dollars.

The first one I knew about was 38 years ago. I was told by someone who had asked me to stand bail for him for a third DUI offence, but I did not own a property, and so he used a professional bailor.

Apparently there is not a lawyer or police officer or person working around any of the courts who doesn’t know about the system and how it works.

I didn’t even know it was illegal. Or why certain professionals demand to be paid in cash or by personal cheque. Or why no one is seen dropping the piles of rubbish by the signs that say – NO DUMPING OF RUBBISH HERE. Or why there are so few, so very few dismissals of senior executives for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Did you really think it was because the young women who are its victims never tell anyone? Or because when they do, they are not believed? Or that “they asked for it”? Or is it because, in our patriarchal society, men’s contribution in the organisation is worth more than women’s lives? Any woman’s?

Or is it overlooked if a senior executive thinks he has the right to "have a little fun, teasing – you know I was just teasing, there is no harm in it…we’re like a family here” (it makes me wonder what kind of family life he has)?

He has the morals of an alley cat, and not just when dealing with junior employees. Their morals spread to dealing with expense accounts, with company property, with contractors, with suppliers, with the reputations of their superiors, especially the ones who do not share their attitudes about “fun.” Especially, but not only, if they are women.

Those who are not can tell you how they refer to female colleagues when they are in male-only company. They follow the example of Donald Trump and what he referred to as "locker-room talk.” “Secretary not permanent until screwed on desk – smirk, smirk, haw, haw, haw.”

Sharing in the jokes marks a colleague as another potential Trump moralist – one who will cover up poor performance because once a man acquiesces to it, he makes himself vulnerable to the kind of institutional blackmail that office politicians thrive on. The reputations of even the CEO, the religious leader, the CMO or the chief judicial officer can be smeared and broken that way.

To someone who says, “Oh, come on! It was just a joke! What’s the matter, you can’t take picong?” the response is “No. It was not a joke and it is not funny.”

Gender means same-sex harassment as well as heterosexual harassment, by the way. We get a lot of both nowadays.

Just as child sexual abuse is never the fault of the child – it is always the fault of the perpetrator – so is sexual harassment in the office. Whether it is a corporate, religious, judicial/constabulary or ministerial office, it is never the fault of the victim. If you think she is inviting seduction, you should be the one who says “No, that behaviour is totally inappropriate.”

Sexual harassment does mirror Trump. The low IQ, the poor behavioural control.

Strange how some people can control their urge for food in the office. Even if they work a double shift, they don’t snatch someone else’s lunch out of their hands, but whine that “I just couldn’t help it" when it comes to sexual urges. Their inability to control their physical urges means that they should never be entrusted with the responsibility of directing whole organisations full of people, or even small functions.

And don’t fall for the idea that it is accepted by the culture: nonsense. If you have not learned how to behave in a social setting, it means that your cognitive abilities are limited, and today’s international, interdependent organisational professional contacts require abilities that you just do not have.


"Protests show why we must say no to sexual harassment"

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