Men who Make Passes should sometimes change Glasses

One of the benefits of being in a family with lots of girl children is that ‘light-bulb’ moments occur more often than most men would expect. I am constantly caught off guard by the comments that fly from the lips of my teenage grand-daughter. And none more so than the chat over tea regarding ‘men who make passes’.

Apparently sexual harassment – minor or major –is an ongoing issue with women that (I imagine) few men ever think about or have to contend with.

Where does the line get drawn between passing a compliment to a person of the opposite gender and making an unwanted pass at the very same person ? Is it a male thing only? Or does it go both ways ? I suppose it’s all a question of the WAY in which men (and women I have to say) interact together, especially when they first meet. And of course a question of the WAY in which flirting is perceived and received.

Where to draw the line ? Why do some men see it as a ‘right’ when it comes to what they say to women they first meet (or even pass in the street) ? What is acceptable and what is not ?

How are we doing in South Africa ? If we were to poll young women in our country what percentage would say that sexual harassment (minor or major)was a daily occurrence in their lives ?

Last month (6th June) I heard on the radio that Egypt has just introduced new laws against sexual harassment in an effort to bring down what is being perceived as escalating menace. In an order issued by outgoing interim President Adly Mansour, the punishment for sexual harassment is now up to five years in jail. Interestingly the new laws provide for longer sentences offenders who hold a position of power over their victims such being armed with a weapon or a senior person at work.

And, looking at the bleakest picture, according to the UN, nine out of 10 Egyptian women experience some form of sexual harassment during her lifetime, ranging from minor assaults to rape.

Sad to say, South Africa is not doing too well when it comes to sexual harassment. In fact according to the report by the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita. In 1998, one in three of the 4,000 women questioned in Johannesburg was raped, according to Community Information, Empowerment and Transparency (CIET) Africa. While women’s groups in South Africa estimate that a woman is raped every 26 seconds, the South African police estimates that a woman is raped every 36 seconds.

And here, in the Midlands, just how relevant is this article to us? Is sexual harassment an issue here or not ? As a man I can only say that that I suspect that it is, and if it is then perhaps now might be a good time to review where we all stand on this. Perhaps we don’t give this matter enough serious thought. Whatever the case I am reminded that “Women’s rights are Human Rights” and so am with all of those who continue to work to ensure that these rights are recognised and encouraged.