In 1979, while planning an international women’s conference, I was raped by my supervisor
by Phyllis Chesler
I stand with the hundreds of women who have come forward to name their sexual harassers and rapists.
I have been sexually harassed and propositioned as a teenager, a college and graduate student, and as an employee, by strangers on the street, and by neighbors, professors, visiting dignitaries, employers. This Stuff is par for the course in most women’s lives.
However, one episode sexual harassment and rape-on-the-job stands out. It took place at the United Nations.
UN Peacekeeping troops in Cambodia, Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Uganda have been accused of raping vulnerable girls and women whom they were supposed to protect. UN peacekeepers and their hired military contractor trafficked underage girls into Sarajevo for profit and pleasure. Kathryn Bolkovic, a Nebraska policewoman who worked for the military contractor, dared expose this sordid enterprise for which she was threatened and her employment terminated. (A film, The Whistleblower, was made about her, starring Rachel Weisz).
Many women who have worked at the UN have themselves been sexually harassed and assaulted by their employers. When they complained, they were treated as whistleblowers: Fired, or, if lucky, forced into expensive, lengthy, UN in-house tribunals. Ultimately, charges are rarely brought, the accuser is usually fired or sent back to her home country. Sometimes, the perpetrator is whisked away overnight to his home country. High ranking UN officials have diplomatic immunity.
In 1994, after years of in-house litigation, one woman, Catherine Claxton, finally won a UN-brokered settlement against her boss, Argentinian Luis Maria Gomez, an Assistant Secretary General. In 2003, another woman, Joumana Al-Mayhani, in Kuwait, sued, was fired, but won a very small settlement against her UN boss, Yusuf Mansur.
Well, #MeToo at the UN.
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