Crimes against Wo-manity

Strauss Kahn in Court

How the mighty hath fallen!…is a phrase that I am pretty certain crosses the mind of most people upon seeing the image  of Dominic Strauss-Kahn, IMF Managing Director arraigned in court on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault. He looked forlorn, unshaven, disheveled with down-cast eyes – the look of a man defeated, with the weight of the world on his shoulders. A penny for his thoughts…here was a man who erstwhile had the world in his hands – he strode the IMF like a colossus on the verge of negotiating IMF bailout packages for Portugal and Greece, trying to get the Eurozone out of the recession; he had a thriving political career in France, ready to emerge as a foremost contender for the presidency against Nicolas Sarkozy next year; he was living the life with all the perks that being head of IMF entails like lodging in a $3,000 per night suite in New York and then he just had to ruin all that by (allegedly) pulling a fast one on a chamber-maid. You just have to feel sorry for the man, I mean to have the whole world in the palm of your hands one second, and then to have it slip away the next. But most of all, one has to feel sorry for all the women in the world who daily go through various forms of abuse, assault, attacks and other heinous crimes. One cannot help being torn between two different sets of emotions.

In the first place is a sense of anger over our general vulnerability and state of insecurity as women across time and space. From the developed to the developing world despicable crimes are committed against women daily  in different situations – at home, in school, in offices, in farmlands, on the streets; crimes range from sexual assault and molestation, physical abuse and violence to trafficking and modern slavery and other heinous activities. Take the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for instance where it was reported recently that over 1,100 rapes take place every day, essentially a rape pandemic unleashed by  rebels as a weapon of war presumably to break the spirits of these women and traumatize them. It is such a horrendous and inhuman thing I am still incapable of understanding and probably never will.

In the West, rape, sexual molestation and most disturbingly murder abound. This to a large extent informed crime reality shows like Murder Detectives, Forensic Detectives, FBI Files on Discovery Channel and Hollywood versions like CSI. Here in the UK I have been following one or two cases over the past few months particularly that of Joanna Yeates, a young architect in her mid-twenties who was abducted on her way home in the evening, sexually assaulted and then murdered. I particularly feel emotionally attached to Joanna Yates’ case, as if I knew her personally or something – maybe it is out of the realization that being in my mid-twenties as well, it could just as easily have been me. There is also the case of Nikitta Grender a pregnant teen that was murdered and set ablaze in her flat; a teenage girl stabbed in London a few weeks ago, and the list goes on and on.

More generally is the evil, global menace of modern-day slavery or human trafficking involving young girls from many West African countries sent to Europe for a life of sexual slavery and prostitution; young girls from Eastern European countries subjected to sexual slavery within Europe; or girls from Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal sent to other Asian countries and even Middle Eastern countries like UAE (Dubai) for such evil purposes. The bottom line is that women all around the world on a daily basis go through all sorts of odious ordeals, in the form of rape, molestation by friends, family or complete strangers. Maybe it’s because of our vulnerable and gentle nature which is so easily exploited by men and even our fellow women.

I guess then maybe it is this vulnerability that made me become overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of pity and sympathy at that image of Strauss Kahn shuffled in hand-cuffs and looking all straggly, disheveled and despondent in court.  It is no wonder then, that the 62 year old has been placed on a suicide watch list at New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison where he has been remanded in custody, for having your whole world crashing before your very eyes is enough to turn the strongest person suicidal.

My emotions aside, he a suspect for now, and is presumed innocent until tried and found guilty. And in any case, I am learning these days to look at the general context of things, attempting to be objective before passing judgment. Therefore I am not dismissing the fact that as an erstwhile strong contender tipped to run for French presidency on the platform of the French Socialist Party, it could have been a set-up as is being reported in some quarters in order to ruin his political career or for other political reasons. An opinion poll conducted in France shows that more than half of the respondents, 57% believe Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a plot. Certain questions are also being raised like how come the maid was able to get access to his room while he was in the shower? Did he request for house-keeping or did she assume he had checked out? How come it took up to 12 hours after the incident before it was reported? How come all of a sudden, women who claim to have been assaulted or harassed by him previously like the French journalist, Tristane Banon never thought of going to the authorities until now? Many questions…whether that is the case or not, as it is now, his political career and prospects have been effectively neutralized.

That notwithstanding, we as women need to be vigilant, for despite advancements in ICT and other trappings of technology and progress in the modern era, the primitive, primeval and evil streak within some men still exist in various forms. Such perverse tendencies and desires have evolved along with the times, and we are still as vulnerable as we were decades ago. We should not allow or at least fight till our last breath to protect ourselves and the people around us from such traumatizing or even potentially fatal situations. And as for Dominic Strauss Kahn, as more details come out and the events unfolding confirm his innocence or guilt, the entire saga promises to be very drama-filled.

9 thoughts on “Crimes against Wo-manity

  1. This is really an impressive analysis of the situation Zainab. I wish however to point to the fact that this issue of women being vulnerable and marginalised seems to be blown out of proportion. Why not look at the other side of the coin. Can we count how many great men came crashing down because of women?
    While I acknowledge that rape is a terrible offence and should be severely punished, the way women make it seem is like only women can be raped. Do you know howmany of us get raped every day because of the provocative dressing of women? And now it has reached even the stage where something that happens between two consenting adults becomes rape or assault simply because the woman says so.
    I feel real pity for Strauss though because he was not aware of the fact that we live in a woman’s world. A world where the mighty can fall by simply helping dust-off a woman’s skirt. WHAT A WAY TO FALL!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment Kingsley. Interesting…coming from you. I agree to an extent, and disagree with some of your points. To an extent, particularly in these climes some VERY FEW women seem to take advantage of the law to destroy accomplishments some men have worked hard to achieve over decades for so many despicable reasons. And in this case, I really do not know what to believe for now… However, I think more women are victimized and abused by men than the other way round, all over the world.

  2. Hello Zainab,
    It is vital that we respect the presumption of innocence of Dominique Strauss Khan (DSK) as any one else. The American system accuses first and looks at the defence argument after. It has been a shock for the French people to see DSK handcuffed because in France you are not forced to be exposed to public while presumed innocent and DSK is an important figure. As you rightly pointed until last Sunday he was head in the polls against Nicalos Sakosy for the 2012 presidential election. I would like to take this opportunity to underline the fact that the French may accept libertinage but are not lenient toward sexual assaults or crimes as some foreign journalists pretended! If DSK is found guilt the country will reject his behaviour, feel very sorry for the young woman and be embarrassed by the image of France he has portrayed. I don’t know where you got your statistics affirming that 57% of French people believe it is a plot because it is wrong! ‘It could be a plot’ may be but not ‘it is a plot’ (wrong reference or wrong translation). French often think of plot because it history is full of examples of the kind. You have on your blog a picture of Strauss Khan in a positive manner put let me tell you that many pictures are going around the word show a different profile and accuse DSK to be a preserve. Concerning Tristane Banon it is not so much that she was not authorised. Her mother, socialist politician, knowing Strauss Khan asked her own daughter to not fill a complaint. Even worse than you thought, I am sure. I would not comment Strauss Khan behaviour before we understand what really happened. It is also important to understand that the judge decided to keep DSK in jail not because he is guilty but because the charges against him are serious and most of all because he has the means to escape or go back to France. France does not extradite French nationals to US justice and even sometime with other nationalities. The US justice had a very negative experience with Roman Polanski. This said, I hope we will learn why the judge took such position because it is quite surprising that she did not let him go with an electronic ankle bracelet as he has had not previous criminal record.
    As this story brings you to talk about abuses of women, this topic make me think about the nantis more specifically the politicians behaving like nantis. France must start to understand that the time of impunity is over for its politicians. It is time for the French, as did the Scandinavians and the Germans along time ago, to expect their leaders to have a conduct respectful of the law and moral. At the begging of the years, when the uprising in Tunisia just started, our Minster of Defence, Michèle Alliot-Marie (nick-name MAM, a woman, the Mam of the French) was taking her vacation in Tunisia in a private jet of one of Ben Ali close friend and her parents were investing in one of his high-return-rate businesses in Tunisia. Our Prime Minster, Francois Fillon admitted that he had enjoyed last Christmas holiday paid for by President Hosni Mubarak’s government. Today, DSK, tenor of the socialist party may be responsible of criminal sexual acts. If it is not proved the married man admitted having oral sex with the made of his hotel room… What is also disturbing is that since Sunday DSK has no longer been described as a womaniser which is acceptable in France but a person known for sexually harassment. It has been common knowledge with journalists and politicians but they thought it was part of his private life. I am for protecting the private live of public figures. These people should not be continuously harassed as we can see in the tabloids. But when acts overpass laws and moral it is not longer a private matter. I don’t think it is adequate for the socialist party to have a tenor who love luxury and harass women. Both are in opposition of the party values. These above mentioned facts give reason to the extreme right party of Marine Le Pen who use a discourse focused on a protest against ‘the elite’,’ the nantis’. I hope that in 2011 France will have its own revolution: Nantis out of office ! Stop impunity! We want well-behaved politicians!

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment Virginie. In the first place, I think any sane and reasonable person ought to be shocked at the way DSK was shuffled and hand-cuffed in the full glare of the media, it was very disturbing to see that. Afterall, there are situations where suspected paedophiles and serial killers have their identities protected from the media until trial has been conducted just so that people and the media do not ‘convict’ the suspect until the court actually does so, then why should Kahn be treated this way? Regarding the opinion poll I cited, I got the information from aljazeera, if you click the link, it will take you to the page where it says “The poll by CSA, a French market research company, found that 57 per cent of respondents thought that the Socialist politician, who had been favourite for the 2012 French presidential election, was definitely or probably the victim of a plot“. You can find it here

      I didn’t want to put a humiliating picture of Kahn, because I personally feel he is being treated unfairly, he is being unfairly exposed and this could possibly influence the way the trial goes because whether he is guilty or not, he deserves a fair trial. Like I said, I am looking at all the facts and I do not want to make a hasty conclusion. And like you rightly mentioned, perhaps this is a turning point for the french to demand for more “well-behaved” politicians.

  3. Thanks for your fast reply. I do agree with the result if the question is ‘definitely or probably the victim of a plot’. This way it makes sense. Your explanation was well balanced. It did not appear that you felt into traps, making inadequate assumptions. I need to thank you though. I feel much better now that I wrote about my frustration about the doubtful treatment of DSK, the inadequate behaviour of some French politicians and the failure of politicians, journalists and people like me to ask for well-behaved politicians. My instinct tells me that this even, especially if DSK is found guilty, will change the perception and push for the moralization of the French public life. We are in an electoral year. There is a window of opportunity that many of us will not want to miss. This said, I do not wish that France goes into the other extreme. Protection of privacy has to remain. It is the boundary only that needs to be shifted.

    1. But then again, what if for some reason he is acquitted by the court and not found guilty, even though that could be very unlikely. Do you think that would change anything as regards his political career? I’m just thinking of the flip-side

  4. If DSK is found not guilty and this affair is a set-up, he will have the opportunity to make a comeback. But he is no longer in a position to be a candidate at the 2012 presidential election. The candidacy’s deadline for the primary of the socialist party is the 28th of June (the party did not wish to postpone it). In this case, the timing of the justice system plays against him.

    In the future, since it has been revealed that he is not only a womaniser but that he also has the tendency to harass women, he will have to explain himself and make it clear that he will change his behaviour.
    His image is badly damaged though. In the late 1990’s, when he was the French Minster of Finance, he was denounced by some journalists for offering promotion to some of the female students having internships in his ministry. In 2008, the IMF gave DSK a warning for abusing his influence, facilitating the career of one of his subordinate also his mistress, Pirosk Nagy, a married Hungarian woman. The affair was revealed to the IMF by her husband. And last but not least, the story of Tristane Banon that came out this week.

    If found not guilty but it is proven that he had sexual acts with the maid of his hotel room, the negative image that has been portrayed of him will have a longer and server impact. It will be more difficult for him to show that his ethic is adequate.

    If he is found partially guilty (he pleads guilty and make a financial deal with the victim, a common practice in US), it will be more difficult for him to make a come back.

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