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A resonating slap on our face

Some months back I was rejoicing at the fact that sexual harassment at the workplace was taken seriously for the first time in the Maldives [

A public figure, a person in a prestigious position, the President of the Civil Services Commission of the Maldives, was removed from the job. He was removed by the Parliament through a no confidence vote. The Parliament is the body that approves the appointment of a person to that position in the first place. So it is natural that they are the very people to remove anyone from that post, with a valid reason.

So yes! In November 2012 the Parliament voted to remove him from the post following an investigation by the Committee overseeing independent institutions. This investigation was carried out in response to a case filed at the Parliament by the victim.

And today, that same person, the culprit, has returned to his post after a ruling by the Supreme Court of the Maldives. The culprit apparently appealed at the Supreme Court to nullify the Parliament motion. AND, not so surprisingly the 7 high and mighty judges on the Supreme Court bench believes the man cannot be removed without a proper investigation with enough evidence to prove him guilty of sexual harassment. (Note: Mind you! our media reports him as a culprit of sexual abuse. Some have difficulty differentiating sexual abuse and sexual harassment and some believe sexual harassment is nothing and that it’s a figment of women’s imagination).

Now, can someone tell me how anyone can prove sexual harassment at the workplace, if the act was not witnessed by others. Who in their right mind will pinch the bottom of a subordinate in front of other? Who in their right mind will brush against a woman’s breast while someone else can witness it? Who in their right mind will leer and pass indecent comments to the subordinate of another gender while someone else can hear it?

The Committee of the Parliament based their case on accounts of the victim as well as the culprit as well as the testimony of few of the victim’s colleagues. And it was found that the claims by the victim has more valid basis than the denial of the culprit.

Nobody punished this culprit under any law. But what the Parliament did was to say they have lost trust in the person to be the head of the entire Civil Services of the Maldives. They did not criminalize him.What the Parliament did was to give a message to the entire men folk that sexual harassment at the workplace is not to be taken lightly. Sexual harassment is quite wide spread. I know of one organization where a number of women workers have filed a case against the head of the institution – A man! It’s been over an year now since it was filed. And yet, not much progress has happened other than some hearings. Imagine what type of work environment that place will be with the boss doing everything possible to make the life of those who rose their voice as much as hell as he can be; the victims demotivated and doing the bare amount of work as well as not cooperating. The organization has been stagnant. And it’s the public who suffers as a result.

Back to this case in question. I thank God that the Parliament has at least some women representatives. I am sure the three women in the Parliament was lobbying hard for her case. Thank God that the Parliament sessions are aired live. They need the public vote in 2014; I am sure those who voted in favor of the victim was seeking the approval of the 50% of the voting population, the WOMEN; and maybe another 30% from men who are sympathetic to non-discriminatory human rights.

Too bad the Supreme Court Bench is a snob group vested with a huge amount of power. Nobody can touch them. So no wonder the male egos of the seven male judges (Chief Justice Hon Uz. Ahmed Faiz Hussain, Justice Hon. Uz Abdulla Saeed, Justice Hon. Uz Abdulla Areef, Justice Hon. Uz Ali Hameed Mohamed, Justice Hon. Uz Adam Mohamed Abdulla, Justice Hon. Dr. Ahmed Abdulla Didi, Justice Ahmed Muthasim Adnan) was in favor of their male colleague.

I wonder if they will do the same if it was their own daughter, their wife, their sister, as the victim of sexual harassment. Maybe they will say “oh darling, stay within the four walls of your house and nobody will subject you to harassment!”

P.S. This post originally posted on my blog @
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Gender-based Violence
Human Rights
South and Central Asia
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