Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Sex in politics: A live issue
Political party officials, asked about the sexual harassment of women candidates, all said it does not happen in their parties but it happens in others. Independent Liberal Party (ILP) interim chairman Robin Montano said he has “professional knowledge” of three separate instances of sexual harassment in the UNC. “Three young ladies came to me (in his capacity as an attorney) and when I told them what it (the court matter) would entail, they backed off.”
Montano said he was sure the same thing happened in the PNM, but it certainly did not happen in the ILP. But he added, “I would not put my head on a block for anybody. “Mr Jack Warner and myself, no. The other men in the ILP, I am 99 per cent certain (they would not do that). “If I ever found out someone was doing that in the ILP, I would blow the whistle. I am a father of three girls and I am a husband. You can make a little joke, but there are certain bounds a man must never cross.”
Montano was responding to allegations by Hazel Brown, head of the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women, who said women political candidates had told her they had experienced sexual harassment. People offer to assist with their campaigns and then demand their bodies and souls after, she said. PNM MP and former lady vice chairman Donna Cox said she has not experienced sexual harassment, not even from constituents.
Admitting that it does happen, she said when women demand respect, men know where to get off. She said men know to whom they can make those kinds of advances. PNM MP Nileung Hypolite said he was not aware women politicians were sexually harassed in his party, but he heard it had been happening across the entire government system.
“The PNM had some very successful women politicians, from 1956 right down to the present time, and I am not aware any such harassment has taken place. I am not aware that is taking place with my female colleagues around me.” He added, however, “If it is, it is wrong and must be condemned.”
Hypolite said while he has heard in the Unemployment Relief Programme men offer women jobs for sexual favours, and that it happens on a daily basis in the workplace, it did not happen with PNM women politicians. Former UNC councillor and chairman of the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation Khadijah Ameen, asked if Brown’s claims were true, replied, “As in every other occupation.”
She quickly added, “I have not had that in my experience. But in almost every walk of life women are subject to all sorts of sexual harassment and insinuations. Sometimes it can be as subtle as an inappropriate comment from a male colleague.” Ameen, who said she was a product of the Network’s training programme for women entering politics, insisted, “Women have to be equipped to handle this.”
The woman’s first response will determine the nature and frequency of the harasser’s future advances, she advised. “You can respond to him in a manner that will let him know you are not tolerating it, without creating bad relations in the workplace.” Fuad Abu Bakr, leader of the New National Vision party, said he had not heard of such complaints from women in his party and it would not be tolerated.
“If it happens, our disciplinary committee will dismember you,” he said, explaining that by “dismembering” he meant throwing the man out of the party. Abu Bakr said, however, given the mentality of men and the fact that sexual harassment was common in the workplace, he was certain it had penetrated the political arena.
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