Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Not Condemning: Time to lay down the law; Rowley’s men diddle while women get burned

Not Condemning: Time to lay down the law; Rowley’s men diddle while women get burned

Next week Thursday, a week from today on 8 March, the world will celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). Between now and then here in Trinidad and Tobago, some will clink glasses, others will engage in “big” talk at cocktail parties while others will analyse gender issues to death in panel discussions, talk shops, talk shows and seminars.  Only a minority will take positive action to bring women’s issues to the attention of the wider public.

But it’s not just women or only the wider public that must contribute to improving the situation of women in our country.

Photo: Boys will be boys but are women prepared to let them be bad boys?

For Jane and Lalita T&T, the reality is that issues affecting women are relegated to the back back-burner and very little heat will be generated under the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace in particular. What that means in effect is that women will continue to suffer in silence unless and until there is a process in place to treat with claims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Think of our public sector and State enterprises, where women are increasingly making their presence felt. Think of our education sector, where women appear already to be in the majority. Global statistics indicate that one in every four women is sexually harassed. In the absence of sexual harassment policies, some 25 percent of our most successful women will be sexually harassed and they will have no process through which to seek redress.

Lustful, lecherous, dirty old men—and young ones as well!—lurk in offices and classrooms and boardrooms literally waiting to get their hands on near helpless women, confident in the knowledge that they are likely to get away unscathed. They know that, in the absence of legislation, the wronged women have little real recourse; they must suffer in silence.

As part of the observance of International Anti-Corruption Day in 2017, Prime Minister Keith Rowley was presented with a petition which asked him to implement a Sexual Harassment Policy across all ministries and State enterprises. The authors suggested that an appropriate gift to the women of our nation would be the implementation of a National Sexual Harassment Policy covering all sectors of public life as a precursor to the passage of legislation. To date, there has been no response received by the signatories to that petition!

Photo: Angostura chairman and former senator Rolph Balgobin, appointed by Government and accused of sexual harassment.
(Courtesy Winston Garth Murrell)

Given the resounding silence on the matter, it seems fair to conclude that the government has weighed its options and arrived at the view that Sexual Harassment Policy implementation need not be made a priority at this time. And so it is that this 8 March will be celebrated as International Women’s Day for yet another year and the women in Trinidad and Tobago will still be without a legal voice to be raised against the now ubiquitous perpetrators of sexual harassment.

If any more evidence were needed as to the GORTT’s real stance in this matter, consider the fact that TT$3.5m has already been spent to defend one Government-appointed chairman against sexual harassment charges. Does one really need any clearer signal that protecting women is not as important as protecting the men who make their lives hell?

Trinidad and Tobago is in the mid-term of its three-year representation on the UN-Women Executive Board. What, I wonder, will we have accomplished at home by the time our term comes to an end and we have to demit office in late 2019?

Truth be told, I am not optimistic. But I’d prefer not to be pessimistic and to believe that any negative prognosis is nothing but premature—Rome, after all, was not built in a day.

It is, of course, true that we are still a full week away from 8 March and that the end of our term is still a year and a half in the future. But somewhere in the back of my mind, there plays the persistent thought that, even though PM Rowley’s name shares an initial letter with Romulus and Remus, he has very little in common with the founders of the Holy City when it comes to nation building.

Not condemning, just commenting.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) speaks in Parliament flanked by acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert (right) and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.  (Copyright Parliament.Org)

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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12 comments

  1. What is so offensive about the picture above? I see two men admiring a beautiful woman’s butt. Is that “sexual harassment” to quietly observe something of beauty? Well tell me, if so, why do women spend long hours at a gym concentrating on beautifying their butts? not for it to be admired? The same applies to her boobs? I’m no hypocrite and so once in the presence of attractive women with blessed assets, you can be sure that I will quietly admire, hoping that she cannot read my mind, and that is typical of all red-blooded males. So ladies once I don’t pass a remark, be prepaired for my viewing.

    • Women do not go to the gym for men or you. Women go for their health and themselves. Stop defending your creepiness. Treat women like what they are. People. And yes, I believe it goes both ways.

    • Hahahahaha! My creepiness keeps my blood flowing honey.Look at the number of posts on Facebook featuring women displaying their assets and you trying to tell me that women go to the gym for their health? Speak for yourself. you are no spokesperson for the rest, please. Women, like men, like to look attractive for the opposite sex approval.That’s where I comes in. lOVE YOU ALL!

    • I am no spokeperson, but YOU are apparently… as a man. Because you as a man know how women think better than women do. #mansplainer ?

      Also: “My creepiness keeps my blood flowing honey.” ?

    • Yes, you are correct! what now! I’m not concerned with how they think, It’s what I know. Women end up at a male psychologist office to seek help in finding themselves. Some men think better on wonen matters than womed do. No sex in thinking!

    • Mike Penco It would appear sarcasm is lost on you.
      “Women end up at a male psychologist office to seek help in finding themselves.” Where are the stats to prove this theory of yours? Otherwise it sounds as though you are making up stuff as you go.
      The average man has stated repeatedly he has no idea how to please a woman. That shows men have no idea how women think. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  2. ” In the absence of sexual harassment policies, some 25 percent of our most successful women will be sexually harassed and they will have no process through which to seek redress.

    Lustful, lecherous, dirty old men—and young ones as well!—lurk in offices and classrooms and boardrooms literally waiting to get their hands on near helpless women, confident in the knowledge that they are likely to get away unscathed. They know that, in the absence of legislation, the wronged women have little real recourse; they must suffer in silence.”

    This too makes very little sense. The words are evocative of hope, rather than practicality. The writer is missing the obvious and attempting to pin false hope on legislation and policies. The process is there already to seek redress, but, like I mentioned in my previous comment, there are other factors which hinder female (or even male) victims.

    The law is a ‘blunt instrument’ and only works if one is willing to pick it up and wield it as the shield or sword it can be… in other words, if victims do not engage in the correct process and procedures, they are not aiding in asserting (or defending) their rights. To do that needs more than mere courage or rage… it needs money, a support system, a change in culture and not least, police and judicial enforcement of the law, so that the ‘system’ can work and more importantly, be seen to be working.

    Just bleating about change is fine… if you’re sheep waiting for slaughter.

    • Earl Best

      The question that occurs to me as a result of your comment, Jumbie, is this: Is there any modification to the existing law that might make potential harassers think twice before they act? Is there any way that the law can be tweaked or even changed significantly to make it easier for victims to successfully seek redress?

      • Well Earl (if I may be informal),

        Doh get meh started… For one thing, I would like to see funding for the Judiciary moved to the Consolidated Fund so that the Executive cannot ‘strangle’ it every year. It is a power imbalance that is not within the rule of law or separation of powers. It always amazes me that the people cannot see this. Successive chief justices have been too polite to put it in blunt words, but every year successive speeches have alluded to this disparity.

        Next, I would like to see more courts built (physical courts), and more judges selected from the Commonwealth to staff these. Open up the bottleneck by having more access, night court if necessary. Have fixed days for prelim matters but continue trials apace.

        The police service needs a major overhaul. For one, police officers should be working toward a degree in ‘justice’, policing or similar, a four-year programme that teaches modern policing methods and LAW. In Ukraine for example, police and lawyers undergo the same first 3 years of training before diverging. Also, yearly fitness tests. Promotion by merit and not seniority. Tests for promotion, not automatic rankings.

        Trinidad and Tobago still have not seen the effect of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD & Anor [2018] UKSC 11 (link here: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2018/11.html) which makes it possible for victims of crimes to sue the police for failure to carry out an effective investigation. I’ll do a separate write-up for Lasana later… but in essence, the police in every Commonwealth countries is now under a more rigorous duty of care to perform.

        Observe human rights. Things like police beatings should not be ignored by judicial officers. And officers who are involved when facts reveal guilt ought to be dismissed from the service pronto. It happens and everyone knows it, but magistrates and judges turn a blind eye and treat every accused person as a liar… I’d prefer if they reverse that view and treat every prison and police officer as the liar. Less opportunity to ‘escape’ liability that way.

        There should be more independent commissions – with teeth! – overseeing these organisations. Definitely, the laws regarding the powers of these commissions need to be reviewed and updated.

        Access to justice should be affordable, fairly easy, and timely. A separate body to investigate persons wishing to make civil sexual harassment claims for example, could be set up to determine whether the claim has merit (properly staffed of course, even by a separate branch of police) and if the claim has merit, funding could be available for victims to take your cases further. Legal aid may need to be expanded, as would a decent pro bono programme.

        Of course, many of the things that I have suggested will require more funding, but I believe that in the long run cost will be reduced and the suggestions that I have made could possibly even save money in the longer term, not to mention avoid the bottlenecks we see every day.

        I’ll leave you to think about these ideas while I get on with other things.

  3. “the women in Trinidad and Tobago will still be without a legal voice to be raised against the now ubiquitous perpetrators of sexual harassment”

    This is certainly not true. The real problem is not that they are without a legal voice, but that many lack the gumption and financial resources to take complaints further. These are usually civil matters and it take money to assert your rights. Considering the state of the judiciary in Trinidad and Tobago, sexual offences will be placed on the backburner and continued delays will be experienced for years. Obviously, this will add to the trauma and expenses for the victims – perpetrators are usually in positions of power, as noted in the Angostura matter.

    The three main barriers to taking effective action are:
    * police incompetence
    * judicial bottlenecks
    * victims are lacking financial resources

    Of course, there are more barriers, but these are the three main ones that occur in every situation observable.