Global Youth Voice
Contemporary Issues

Women at Workplaces: Sexism and Abuse

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A look into the case of American Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez received verbal abuse two months ago on the steps of the Capitol. The abuser was another Republican representative from Florida, Rep. Ted Yoho. Yoho shouted at Ocasio-Cortez on the House steps. He abused her for saying that some of the increased crime in New York during the pandemic was due to unemployment and poverty. The Hill reporter was present at the time of the incident. Yoho took to the House floor on Wednesday to offer an apology for his abusive remarks. He said he was sorry for the “abrupt manner of the conversation” but denied using a vulgarity to describe her.

Women At Workplace, Global Youth Voice, gyv
Women at Workplace

Female democrat representatives’ statement on the incident

Ocasio-Cortez had said Yoho’s apology was insincere. Yoho’s references to his wife and daughters as he explained his actions on Wednesday actually ignored the problem, she said. “I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women,” she said. “You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women.” More than a dozen other Democrats spoke, mostly women, in regard to the misogyny that exists at the workplace. “We’re not going away,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat. Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat, said she had experienced “a lifetime of insults, racism, and sexism.” “It’s a manifestation of attitude in our society, really. I can tell you that first-hand, they’ve called me names for at least 20 years of leadership,” Pelosi said of Republicans.

Sexism against women leaders in India

Women politicians in India receive on average 113 abusive tweets per day according to a report by Amnesty International. “Muslim women politicians received 94.1 per cent more ethnic or religious slurs than women from other religions. Women politicians who are Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backwards Classes received 59 per cent more caste-based abuse compared to women from General castes,” the report said.

Experiences of women leaders

Shazia Ilmi from Bharatiya Janata Party said: “More women should be entering politics. But the price that I pay is too much for what I choose to do. The price includes being trolled incessantly, being the victim of online harassment, having a lot of remarks passed about what I look like, my marital status, why I have or don’t have children, etc. — all the filthiest things you can think of. If they don’t like my strong opinions, they do not remark on my work but call me a ‘whore’ in every language that is used in India”.

Kavita Krishnan, from Communist Party India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, told Amnesty International India: “It is particularly frustrating and mentally stressful when you report something, but Twitter or Facebook says that ‘this does not violate their norms’. I feel these platforms should either get rid of their reporting business or stop pretending that they have these norms; because if they are not going to act on them, then they should not have them at all.”

Atishi from Aam Aadmi Party said: “It is not the role of each woman to individually ensure her safety in public space. For example, if a woman steps out in public transport, it is the government’s role to ensure that they are safe there. Similarly, if there is a woman who is accessing social media on Twitter, it is the responsibility of the platform to ensure that it is a safe and secure space for women”.

Abuse has become normal

It is highly common in India to see a male politician cracking jokes or making sexist remarks on a female politician. It has become a normal thing to do. This kind of behaviour leads to a systemic culture of rape. Our patriarchal society questions the ability of the women leaders because they are women. In a similar way, people mocked the finance minister of the country Nirmala Sitharaman just because she is a woman. Opposition ministers accused MP Mahua Moitra when she raised her voice. Apparently male politicians are so offended by women having opinions that they mock them into submission.

Other cases of sexual abuse or threats to women at workplaces

Shubham Mishra, a YouTuber made rape threats to comedian, Agrima Joshua for making jokes on a Quora user. She mentioned Shivaji in one of her jokes. Joshua deleted her video and said she was sorry. Mishra felt hurt and threatened Joshua. He said that he would rape her and explained how he would do it. Vadodra police took immediate action and arrested Mishra.

Sohanlal Walmiki, a janitor in KEM Hospital, Mumbai raped nurse, Aruna Shaunbag. He left Shaunbag in a vegetative state. She went into coma for 40 years till her death. Sohanlal said “he did it in a fit of rage.” He denied raping her saying “I’m not a rapist.”

The scenario in India

Despite its growing economy, India has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world. There are so many factors responsible for this. Concerns of personal safety, security including fear of sexual harassment restrict women’s mobility. They prevent women from seeking employment and limit her to primary caregiver roles. Stories about women’s harassment have come to the surface in the #Metoo era. Now the companies are accountable for  safety of women workers.  They must demand to promote gender-just and gender equality throughout their operations.

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