Former Government Minister, Devant Maharaj, has called on the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) to investigate the circumstances surrounding persons removing a yellow sari from a woman during the PNM Family Day in Chaguanas on Sunday.
The following is Maharaj’s complaint to the EOC’s Chairman, Lynette Seebaran-Suite:
“I write with reference to the above captioned matter and refer specifically to the exhibition of bigotry, intolerance offensive behaviour which occurred at a public event held under the auspices of the Peoples National Movement and its leader Keith Rowley on the 12th August, 2018.
The content of my complaint emanates from a picture depicted in the print media, allegedly taken at the PNM family day, which portrays the forceful unclothing of a female character dressed in traditional east Indian wear.
As you are aware, Section 7 of the Equal Opportunities Act states as follows:
(a) is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of persons;
(b) is done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group; and
(c) which is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it—
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; (b) is done in a public place;
(c) is done in the sight and hearing of persons who are in a public place.
(3) This section does not apply to acts committed in a place of public worship.
(4) In this section— “public place” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.
Based upon the aforementioned report and illustration it can be inferred that it was “reasonably likely” that the PNM as an organisation and/or the persons involved in the depiction of such a display and/or the Prime Minister under whose patronage the display took place was engaged in behaviour that contravenes section 7 of the Equal Opportunities Act. In my considered view the display was offensive because:
a. It depicts the violation of a female which is not only misogynistic, but promotes the defiling of women as being acceptable. You would no doubt agree that in a society such as ours where violence against women is prevalent, such an illustration, even if done in gest, ought to be deprecated in the strongest possible terms;
b. The use of traditional east Indian clothing by the protagonists (a sari) and in particular the callous unrobing of same serves to insult the entire east Indian community as whole. Recently, the EOC made very strong statements which tended to recognise the use of clothing as part and parcel of the sacrosanct nature of religious beliefs and right to adorn same without discrimination. In similar vein I call upon you to condemn the violation and defilement of East Indian and/or Hindu beliefs by the PNM’s use of the sari in such an uncouth, derogatory and crass manner.
I further remind you of your statutory duty as prescribed by section 30 and 31 of the Equal Opportunities Act which states:
30. (1) A person who alleges that some other person has discriminated against him or has contravened section 6 or 7 in relation to him may lodge a written complaint with the Commission setting out the details of the alleged act of discrimination.
Please govern yourself accordingly!”
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