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The Media forced at last to address Sex Abuse

09.04.2018

After some reluctance to bring up for public debate all the cases of sex abuse that for the past few years have been so high profile in the world media (Fox News bosses and the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, for example), nor even to mention them as news items of any consequence, has meant that there has been no progress in Mauritius, while potentially massive gains have been made elsewhere in the understanding the mechanisms of patriarchy – especially in the media, itself. This is important because, to the credit of the media, in many countries it is the media has exposed sex abuse, in the final analysis. In Mauritius, it will have to be, inter alia, the media, too. We are far from this. There has been some progress, with the condemnation of political figures: Ravi Rutnah, of Mamade Khodabaccus and of ex-PPS Tarolah. But, there has not really been debate and discussion. Instead of debate, we risk going on having cover-ups for rape, for example, juxtaposed against lynching – the pattern in old feudal society.


 But, in general, the press in Mauritius has been skimpy in its news coverage even of the high-profile Weinstein case – a case with so many lessons for us all. For example, the actual way that predators like Weinstein and the others operate, and the web of patriarchy that maintains the silence and the cover-ups, including bands of lawyers and even private detective firms that hire ex-Mossad women agents! The two New Yorker articles, now famous, by Ronan Farrow should be being discussed in the Press. And now there is the new fact that the entire Board of Weinstein’s company is being charged for the criminal offenses of aiding and abetting sex abuse. This is for the first time in history, but I am not aware of it being covered by the local press. Let alone debated. It is huge progress. Even the sex abuse by NGOs’ top staff, again where whole executive Committees are being held responsible – at Oxfam and Medecins sans Frontiers, for example. And entire University Board and an entire Olympic Committee for Gymnastics both had to resign after the case of Dr. Larry Nassar. But, in the Weinstein case, his Board of Directors’ members are each being charged with being part of the sex abuse – for not putting a stop to it -- under criminal law. This is a sea change.


 The Tariq Ramadan case has seen scant news items in the Mauritian press, despite his repeated visits to Mauritius. There have been mainly opinion articles supporting him, making the women victims into part of some plot. He is not so much a religious scholar, as he claims to be, but is rather someone who was built up by the French media to cover for their Islamophobia, and who has been to Mauritius dozens of times and, despite a totally incoherent philosophy, he has been pumped up by the media here too. And, the editorial gate-keepers in the main Press have not even let articles in on the chilling testimonies against him. Even as his alibi seems to weaken, I have not seen reports, let alone analysis. With DSK, it was the same. The Press in Mauritius, following the French feudal line of droit de cuissage, just remains silent – averting its gaze, la vie privée. As if you could keep someone prisoner, sometimes even the person’s child, in a whole private life – as if they were slaves.


 The Mauritian mainstream press continues to dig its head under the sand, ostrich style. But reality is catching it up.


 Do the mainstream media have an interest in covering up the frasques of men with power? Men with power in their own press empires? It is not clear to me. Even cases abroad are covered up! Why? I cannot quite understand. Each time, there is a different reason. What if the perpetrator is innocent? Well, of course, that applies to all news about all "criminal charges". Dipin-diber: The Courts will obviously decide. What if Press reports, they then argue, infringe some male’s private life? Well, you can have privacy in your own bathroom, but not so easily to hide a whole “life” – especially if you are a public person, like a politician, high-profile lawyer, journalist, trade unionist.


 But, the silence of the media has an effect on society.


 Sports Authorities


So, by its avoiding debate on this theme, the Press has left the sports authorities in Mauritius without the benefit of the progress being made in the rest of the world on how to handle reports of sex abuse. Because here, seven months of non-stop news-and-analysis of sex abuse have been avoided, while literally dominating international news.


 So, when a javelin thrower accused the chef de mission at the Commonwealth Games in Australia of sexual harassment, the Mauritian Sports Authorities and the Minister of Sport, himself, set about the old ways of covering up, and making the woman accept what she had suffered in silence. Luckily, she somehow made her case public, reported the events to the Australian police, and she has a lot of support now in Mauritius. For the first time, the main Parliamentary Opposition parties have given open support to a victim of sex abuse. The chef de mission, Kaysee Teeroovengadum was banished from the Games Village in Australia, and he is being charged in the Courts in Australia. He has since come back to Mauritius, and there is a truly far-fetched communiqué issued by the Mauritius National Olympic Committee (See coverage in Week-End, 8 March, pages 76 and 77) in which, inter alia, Kaysee Teeroovengadum claims his innocence. Sex abuse is just not acceptable. And then cover-ups are just that much more outrageous.


 The Press


And on a tragic vein, the press empire, L’Express has been reeling from an Affidavit sworn by one of their senior staff members, Audrey Harelle, against her ex-partner Nad Sivaramen, who is none other than the Director of all publications at La Sentinel. The CDU, and soon the police, will step in as a very young child is concerned. Nad Sivaramen claims his innocence.


 Clearly there are different levels of sex abuse – ranging from marrying off under-aged girls between 16 and 18, at the most respectable, to paedophile rings, at the most scurrilous. From a sallacious comment, at the least violent, to a gang rape, at the other end of the spectrum. And there is everything in-between.


 But all are part of patriarchal cruelty. They all result from gross differentials in power.


 And if those types of sex abuse that are easier to control – vile comments at work, taking sex from junior employees in exchange for giving them work, touching women up as the US President Donald Trump is so proud to do – are exposed and criticized, it will surely help to prevent the worse cases from developing in society. Social control is what is called for. That is the importance of denunciations. That is the importance of wide debates in the Press and on Radio.


 Media and Cover-Ups world wide


It seems that world-wide the Media empires, a bit like the Church, have a particularly bad record on abusing women, and even children. (See the 5-Year Study of institutional abuse in Australia recently published and the Jimmy Savile multiple assault cases at the BBC). This is not for any other reason than the excessive powers that these institutions have in society. Whether perpetrators are lowly employees (even the lofty employees are mere employees, not bosses) or employers (capitalist bosses), they have strict hierarchies below them that they keep in place, while and the Boards at the top of the hierarchy have the power to cover up the misdeeds of their managers, for example, to prevent scandal affecting the institution concerned.


 In Mauritius, people still think “patriarchy” means “men”. The idea that patriarchy is hierarchies, endless hierarchies that make up patriarchy, has not yet begun to be understood by the media in Mauritius. When there is an issue of “relative power”, it is not really seen as being “patriarchy”, but as some wild-card factor. People do not see that sex abuse is hidden because of the following kinds of pairs (below) -- pairs that give power to one person, the one  on the left, and deny another person power, the one on the right. These examples are a list of what we refer to in LALIT as “men in positions of power relative to women”:


 a male boss                             - a woman employee, with children to feed


a male manager                      - a woman employee, who has loans to repay


a male social security clerk   -  a woman with no way of feeding her children


a male teacher                        - a student who takes lessons that her parents pay the teacher for


a male priest                          -  a child in the parish, an unmarried woman or girl in the parish


a male doctor                         - a woman patient with health worries


a Government Minister          - a stagiaire, young civil servant, young woman journalist


a male lawyer                         - a woman in the process of divorce


a male trade unionist               - a woman who has been fired or suspended, who needs to be re-instated


a male sports coach                 -a young woman athlete


a male supervisor                    - a young woman looking for work


a policeman in charge             - a woman who goes to the police station over domestic violence


a husband                                - a wife


a male editor                           -  a young journalist


male staff at a home                - an orphaned child


President Clinton                    - Monica Lewinski, a young stagiaire at the White House


DSK                                        - all his victims


Weinstein                                - all his victims


Jimmy Savile                          - all his victims


a CID investigator                   - someone he has arrested (most often the abuse here is against men)                         


 and so on – with lecturers, magistrates, judges, policemen, movie directors, etc. In LALIT, we want the people who now have power to have less power, and finally no more power than anyone else. Those who are potential victims must have more power. That is how you fight against patriarchy. And the first thing that has to be done – and that is being done world-wide – is to expose this abuse to the light of day. Like fungus, it does not survive being put into the sun.


 Once people see that patriarchy is just the abuse of a power differential – and has nothing to do with sex – it becomes easier to put a stop to. It also becomes easier to understand the one in twenty cases where the woman is in the position of patriarchal power, where the woman is the abuser, and the man the vulnerable one, abused. It is easier to understand homosexual abuse. Because it is about power. The big power differential is what is the problem.


 Patriarchy only gets stronger if women are recruited to positions of power.


 So, instead of glorifying positions of power, we have to fight the age-old fight: against power, and for the people to have power – all of us. That is what socialism is. Or, what it will be. That is how people lived for 200,000 years on the planet. So, it is possible. Not to return to that economy, but move on to a new one, where there are no longer power relations, or classes of people. Everyone gets to control everything that is needed for us all to survive.


 Lindsey Collen


for LALIT