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Opinion: In one of India’s ‘most sexist professions’, harassment by powerful men is rife

Mihira Sood: A little more faith
Mihira Sood: A little more faith

I have wanted to write some of these things at different times since it happened, and always shied away. I was far less confident about my place in the legal profession, and was told it would be impossible to prove, that no one would want to take a chance on hiring me, that I would forever be known for this instead of for my work.

This may still be true but I care a little less, have a little more faith, and so when Legally India asked me to write about it at a time when people are receptive to listening and doing something about these issues, I decided to do it. 

I once assisted a very senior lawyer whose advances towards me continued for quite some time after my assistance ceased.

The advances were not physical; it was more in the nature of an obsessive romantic and sexual interest, starting with inappropriately timed phone calls to flowers, dinner invitations, and then sexually explicit email forwards and SMS jokes to more explicit expressions. This wasn't courtship, it was pursuit by a man old enough to be my father, who knew perfectly well how difficult it would be for me to reject him.

In some ways, these kind of advances are harder to voice an objection to without sounding delusional, and even harder to convince people to take seriously as I discovered when I spoke to some friends. While most readily saw it as a form of sexual interest that is clearly inappropriate, fewer saw it as harassment, and fewer still as discrimination.

After all, he didn’t demand sexual favours, nor did the interaction affect my work. He wasn’t being sexist in the sense of thinking, I was only good for one thing – I still did and was given great work. He didn’t exhibit a problem with successful female professionals. To many people, he seemed a reasonable, equality-minded sort of person with a bit of a crush.

This to me, misses the scope of the term “hostile work environment” which certainly goes beyond hostility as only being assaulted, fired, denied a promotion or a pay cut. It misses the fact that sexual harassment embodies fundamental gender stereotypes and that the hierarchy restrains people from challenging them.  It misses how humiliating it is, to be singled out for unwanted attention, and to feel powerless. The impact it can have on one’s self esteem and career choices. How victims are perceived and valued in workplaces by employers, and differently so by peers, the kind of gossip and stereotyping it gives rise to which affects not just victims but all women, how they choose to deal with it and what strategies they use to make the best of a situation, and how they feel about those strategies.

It took me a while to be able to talk about my experience, and to express the conviction that I felt violated because I didn’t think I fit the idea of someone who is victimized or vulnerable. Of course I am intellectually aware of the arguments against this stereotype, and readily apply them to other people and empathise with them, but to apply it to yourself is harder. I didn’t want to see myself as a victim, I told myself it was not as bad as it could have been and there are others who have it worse, and I was also a little crippled by shame and fear – of not speaking out, and of the potential consequences of doing so.

Unlike what SJ experienced though, feminism didn’t fail me. It gave me a vocabulary and a discipline to think beyond the binaries and assumptions of litigation and to interrogate the double binds that women operate under in these cases - that silence equals complicity, but speaking out and spoiling the office atmosphere means there was a good reason to fire you and therefore you are just making it up to take revenge.

Or that you have to be traumatised to X degree in order for it to be harassment, and if you are traumatised to that degree, you are incapable of providing a lucid testimony.

That you must recall every detail of every advance else it clearly wasn’t such a big deal and you are clearly not very credible if you can’t remember what you or he was wearing on any given day; that there can only be one kind of response to something like this, and you must be an ideal complainant, he must be someone people don’t mind hating and your response has to be pitch perfect (but not rehearsed); that you cannot publicly allege something unless you are willing to brave the stigma, but if you are willing to do that then clearly you would do anything for cheap publicity; that if you stay you chose it, and if you leave then the harm is over so we can all move on.

In case anyone thinks these are one-off cases, let me correct that and say this is rife, I know dozens of women who have suffered far worse than I have, and litigation, with its powerful and entitled men and its intricate networks and hierarchies that stifle any challenge, is quite possibly one of the most sexist professions in the country.

A common reaction to SJ’s story has in fact been that this is precisely why people should never hire female juniors, they are always more trouble than they are worth.

I don’t want this to become a legal complaint, and I have no intention of pursuing this. It’s just that I did not have the courage to rock the boat earlier, but someone else has done it now and I felt the least I could do was add to her and so many others’ efforts.

Mihira Sood has been litigating in Delhi for the past six years and is currently pursuing her LLM at Columbia Law School

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Like+12 Object-10 Bro 7 years ago  controversial
You didnt understand her article. It said people saw it as a crush, but she felt it was harassment.

Everything else is just assumption on your part that only show your sick mind so I have no response.

Except to say, let it happen to your wife or girlfriend or sister or daughter, and then have people accusing her of encouraging it. You people will only learn when it happens to you. But even then you are probably incapable of making the connection between tour own beliefs and those of your wife or sister's abuser.
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Like+1 Object-2 Bromance 7 years ago
We did understand her article, you didnt understand the commentor's criticisms. The question people ask is if she felt it to be harassment did she do anything proactive to ask him to stop? And no, just saying she was afraid of what he might do to her career (long after she has stopped working with him) does not answer the question in any manner.

If she as an educated independent privileged woman is unwilling to take a first step at protecting herself, how can one expect a woman from an underprivileged background to make use of the laws that have been put in place?

It is insufficient to say that the laws must be stronger and men must behave themselves. For the laws to work they must be invoked, which Mihira didn't. For men to realise that this behaviour cannot be tolerated and they wont get away with it, they need to be made an example of. Which again Mihira didnt.

And again, no, she hasnt made an example of him yet. She is just venting and seeking sympathy for herself. Unless she is willing to do something about what she has said, then this article is really pointless.
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Like+3 Object-1 kianganz 7 years ago
For men to realise that this behaviour cannot be tolerated and they wont get away with it, they need to be made an example of
Just to make sure I understand your comment correctly. You say that unless Mihira makes an example of men who harass female colleagues and juniors, how can such men possibly ever understand how what they do is wrong?

However, you say that you and others have read the article and understand it - doesnt' that mean that at least you and possibly some others who understand the article, now also understand that the kind of behaviour described in this article is wrong?

That does make it seem like the article has a very good and valuable point indeed...
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Like+2 Object-0 Rank insider 7 years ago
Kian, may be i wasn't too clear earlier so let me try again.

I'm in no manner or form saying that publishing this article is pointless. However what I am saying is that it is insufficient in its scope and ambition.

Your 'in power and may possible abuse power' readers can be classified into certain simplistic categories - those who already know that this behaviour is wrong and wouldn't perpetrate it; those who already know that this behaviour is wrong but couldn't care less and will continue to perpetrate it; those who didn't know that this behaviour was wrong but now do.

The article is preaching to the choir re: the first category. It made no difference to those in the second category. And honestly, do we really want to discuss whether the last category is a sizeable number?

The criticism that I and a lot of other people have been trying to make is how does this article or any of your defences to it, try and get the point across to the second category I mentioned? It doesn't as of now. What would however possibly make them sit up and notice is a possibility of a pain factor for their action. If they think they can get away with it, why would they stop? And if you think that just telling such people that they are wrong will suffice, I have to disagree with you.

Mihira herself in a CNN interview had very strongly advocated for women to come forward and take advantage of the laws in place and not just sit back and be silent victims. Yet, she (back then) and from the absence of any positive indication in her article, even now, does not intend to take any action against the concerned gentleman.

And I'm not even getting into the question of whether she should have told him to stop, did she do something herself, etc. because those aren't really relevant to the harassment she faced. What however is relevant is whether she is willing to do something about it now. And if not, why not?

So the concerned gentleman, harasses her and just gets away. Whats to say he wont harass the next junior he has? He already got away with it once. Even assuming that no legal action is to be taken against him (that of course being Mihira's prerogative), should he atleast not be named so that future juniors of his be warned?

At present, the only point this article seems to be conveying to a reader of yours who may be undergoing harrasment presently or may in the future(irrespective of their sex) is that look if Mihira Sood, who was educated, independent and from a fairly privileged background, just sat quietly and did nothing because she thought her career would be jeopardized, may be we should too. After all even now all she is doing is saying she was harassed, she isn't doing anything else. May be so should we. Just internalize it and move on.

Was that the point of your article Kian?

Ps: Sorry for the long winding 'rant'y post.
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Like+2 Object-2 kianganz 7 years ago

1. The third category might be more sizable than you think.

2. How do you know this article wouldn't have an impact on anyone in category 2?

3. The situation is so messed up at the moment that no one has ever really publicly written about this problem in the legal profession, as far as I know. As such, there is a point to this article, in that it breaks new ground.

Maybe the next article by someone else can name a harasser or do whatever you think should be the next step?

You're saying it's a victim's prerogative whether she files charges or not, yet at the same time you're blaming Mihira for not naming him or not taking enough action and 'just' writing about it. Everything needs to start somewhere.

This is a website and it is partly there to encourage debate and awareness (or sensitisation, if you will) about important matters.

I think Mihira's article has arguably achieved more of that on this website and where it has been re-published or where she has been interviewed, than many other initiatives have...
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A 402-word comment posted 7 years ago was not published. [Appeal decision]
Like+8 Object-0 baba 7 years ago  interesting
Even as a male, I can fully empathise with these women who have finally mustered the courage to stand up to powerful men, who in turn often have the power to make or break their careers. I work in the manufacturing industry and such things are as rife in this profession as in the legal "fraternity" or any other vocation such as medical, media, banking, IT etc. However, I have noticed that increasingly women are using their sexuality to further their careers with a no holds barred attitude. Those women who do not indulge in this or lack the physical charms to be considered for such escapades are clearly left behind, which gives a clear signal to fresh entrants to the workforce. They learn the tricks early on and so the cycle is perpetrated. To a certain extent this is responsible for a lot of mediocrity plaguing our institutions. Also many women enjoy the "ride" as long as this powerful man is in a position to give an "upward thrust" to their career and start ranting once this once powerful man is of no use. Then of course there are men who do the next best thing, "they become pimps" and the story goes on.
To deal with such situations it is essential that the rotting fish (on both sides of the gender divide) is identified and exposed for what it is. However, I know this is wishful thinking-its best to just get on and make the best use of "whatever you've got".
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Like+2 Object-0 Zoe 7 years ago
Well said. Esp. abt the mediocrity engendered by this kind of coquettish behaviour by women and abt the rotting fish on BOTH sides.
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Like+4 Object-1 Rank outsider 7 years ago
The malaise of gender discrimination is too deep rooted in this profession . It seems that public memory being short , the episode of Abhishek Manu Singhvi , is already forgotten ! Sadly nothing has been done to improve the ecosystem . Such episodes will continue to emerge unless dealt with strongly and with no uncertain terms .
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Like+2 Object-0 Rank insider 7 years ago
The episode of Abhishek Manu Singhvi btw was an entirely consensual affair. Stop confusing issues. Or is your point that any sexual relationship of a powerful man must be prima facie considered to be an abuse of power? It cannot possibly be a genuine relationship just because the man is powerful.
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Like+6 Object-2 Corporate Lawyer 7 years ago
Kudos to Mihira and others who have stood up and told their side of professional life as a lawyer in India.

So long as you have the Abhishek Manu Singhvis who pontificate on national TV by night and yet are the Dr.Jekylls who play on the minds of their juniors, this profession will not remain cleansed.

Law firms aside, fully agree with the comments on the companies where lawyers are hired. Sexual harrassment is a two way street - both men and women involved suffer. Some bold women have come out with their suffering. It is high time that the men who have suffered and are suffering did the same.
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Like+8 Object-7 AD 7 years ago  controversial
I just wanna know what the author did to turn down such advances from the lawyer. Usually, a firm rejection or a few signals are enough to stop any such behavior from a self-respecting man. I also completely understand if she was unable to send a strong message - him being a senior lawyer with a lot of clout.
But if we are debating it now - it is important to know why the lawyer continued his advances, and whether the author did anything to turn him down/reject his advances firmly. And whether he continued despite a rejection (i.e if he was deliberately using his clout to pressurize the author into a relationship, despite knowing clearly that she is not interested).
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Like+4 Object-7 Altamish 7 years ago
I don't understand why these kind of revelations are surfacing after SJ's exposure. why do women takes so long to express.
People would tend to reject it as publicity stunt though it may be some serious talks. Women always advice others that tolerating crime is like committing crime, then why all these things are happening only recently. Just like Asaram'sepisode where only one girl had the courage of coming forward against these fake babas and then started pouring uncountable complaints.
I believe women of this country are themselves to blame for all the crimes being committed against them. Only thing they know is to gather at India Gate and perform candle light so called protests just to gain media glare.
My personal advice to all women is that they must join hands in fighting crimes against them rather them protesting afterwards.
Be pro-active rather than raeactive.
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Like+47 Object-5 Guest 7 years ago  interesting  top rated  controversial
great, I was about to give my intern a chocolate for her birthday, after reading this, I decided to eat it myself.
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Like+4 Object-5 Y.P.SOOD 7 years ago
What a shame ! Yet again, this particular narration amply proves that the oft-repeated dictum 'gender equality' and acceptance of fact that girls or women are capable of being equally good (work-wise) if not superior to menfolk, is still a utopia and a far-cry in our society and the nation at large. It also speaks volumes about antipathy of one's own friends/colleagues and people at the helm (who if they choose to decide, can really play a vital role and make a difference to such glaring issues, but somehow just don't, and give a damn for some inexplicable reasons) for such a lackadaisical attitude towards this menace. I can sense a feeling of veiled 'guilt' experienced by Mihira for not being able to muster or gird-up enough courage to blow the whistle at the opportune time. Nevertheless, her anguish and feeling of helplessness is most genuine and perfectly understandable. For whatever reasons, Mihira had to wait till 'SJ experience' to narrate her own. This usually happens when one starts weighing pros-and-cons & the attendant possible consequences about reporting & exposing such behaviours at the work-place especially involving 'elitists-of-the-elite' just like this 'legal luminary' whose persistence with it Mihira described as '.....a pursuit by a man old enough to be my father, who knew perfectly well how difficult it would be for me to reject him.' My own sense of outrage, anguish and concern stems from the fact that I am myself a father of three daughters, presently engaged in pursuit of their careers in the US. Reporting & exposing such an incident at an opportune time can inspire other girls and womenfolk around, to be little bolder and shed away their 'timidity' and/or 'fear'. It can also prove to be a small but a stepping stone towards eventual elimination of this 'evil' from our society. All of us, as a society and as a nation, must disprove the old maxim, 'What cannot be cured, must be endured' and instill and sense of confidence among and dispel fear from the hearts of our womenfolk. Remember, one who doesn't directly help eradicate menace such as this (in whatever small way or form) and raise one's voice against it, helps perpetrate this. Anyway, better late than never, Mihira. Keep up your efforts and keep inspiring other lady(ies) caught in similar circumstances/situations not just in India but around the globe . All the best to you in your present and future endeavours. God bless you !!!

New Delhi
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Like+2 Object-4 guest 7 years ago
Kian you must name the Senior Advocate!
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Like+3 Object-0 Why, bolo, why? 7 years ago
Quoting guest:
Kian you must name the Senior Advocate!

and why MUST he?
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Like+0 Object-2 Rank insider 7 years ago
Here are the reasons why Kian/Mihira should name the gentleman:

1. name and shame - unless positive action is taken against the person in question how is he being made an example of?
2. it forewarns other girls who might want to work with him.
3. the gentleman in question is being slandered without being given a chance to defend himself.
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Like+3 Object-0 Rank outsider 7 years ago
Quoting Rank insider:
3. the gentleman in question is being slandered without being given a chance to defend himself.

If you havent named the person then its hardly slander, right?
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Like+0 Object-1 Rank Insider 7 years ago
It is slander if enough clues are given for people who know Mihira to be able to guess the identity. All her batchmates have already figured it out. And they are discussing his name at coffee points. So it is slander.
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Like+8 Object-2 a struggling male lawyer 7 years ago  interesting
What about those junior women lawyers who use their gender to their advantage in a profession dominated by male seniors. While harassment of any kind needs to be ridiculed, the acts of impropriety of some women lawyers also can't be overlooked.
Case in point here being the infamous mms video a year back of a senior advocate with another lady advocate ( who was allegedly trying to get his favour for her recommendation on the bench)
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Like+1 Object-4 Lado 7 years ago
It's amazing how colored people's opinions and beliefs are; Kianganz comments have nothing to do with what is quite a balanced and nuanced article, especially for one so short. This behavior is typical of internet comments. Get off this discussion KiangZ, find your own soap-box.
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Like+5 Object-1 get a life 7 years ago
How does naming the advocate change the issues mentioned? There us enough information here for people to change their organizations and themselves if they want. But no one wants to, all they want is gossip.

Grow up and get some sensitivity.
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Like+6 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago  interesting
It is also remarkable that various friends of mihira, specially women friends, didn't perceive what was going on as sexual harassment, at the time these incidents were occurring. So much for empathy. Whereas now that the complete sequence of events has been succinctly narrated and put on a public forum, it has received public support from far and wide. What SJ has done is significant. It will be worthwhile to see where it all leads. For the sake of women, I hope it doesn't become a case of ulta chor kotwal ki daante. The amicus brief may make this another landmark case.
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Like+2 Object-7 Lawyers 7 years ago
This from women who have qualified as Lawyers.. Not accountants or call-center workers! If lawyers can not protect Themselves from "alpha" men, how are they going to protect their clients from a world Full of such aggressors? It is the "alpha" who give this world its wars, its politics and even its big businesses.

As I read in one of these blogs, most (if not all) men are Like This Only.. Period. Given a chance, they will "explore", "prey" and "indulge" in sexuality (not merely as a means of sexual pleasure, but to indulge their egos, exercise control and or power) - the age-old "perpetuation of the species" argument was relevant yesterday, is so today - and will be tomorrow. And none of them are going to be Sorry for that.

And to all the girls who think that is too bad, inki maa-behen nahi hai kya, hope someone does the same to his wife etc - for all you know, most of such men may be treating them the same way too!

Society has to evolve, true.. evolve to recognize that men are physically built That Way. They will cut, thrust, burn and conquer - in matters of politics, business, profession and in matters of people (regardless of gender, please note). And I am not even a Talibanist. That shows itself in every facet of life - in policing, in drafting of laws, in the administration of justice.

If that "alpha" aspect of a Man were to change, then this world and the order of nature will be something/someplace else.

You (bra-burners) want to make a "better" world (with panzy boys who will cook food for you, wash your clothes and feed the babies or whatever) which is run by your own rules, well give it a good shot.

Capture a part of the earth's territory from the Alpha Males and rule that half - a females-only territory! Have rules/regulations of most-preferred treatment to its denizens - you deal with the "Male" half only on terms you deem appropriate.

Then, If its a war, it becomes a war. No holds-barred. But no, That is never likely to be acceptable... the stupid argument that i usually hear being - well, we are physically built differently and more weak, so please adjust the rules to suit that!

I think all this must have already run a course some time in human history - in some female-libbers minds at least...

Futile. And against the order of nature. Altho in Kian's gora good-boy assessment, a troll perhaps!
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Like+7 Object-0 kianganz 7 years ago  interesting
Haha, that was actually quite funny in some sad way. I've always thought that the keyboard 'alpha male' warrior only existed in YouTube troll comments. Welcome to LI.

Just let me get your philosophy straight - in your opinion, life is best when societies and humanity are in a perpetual state of war and a never-ending contest of survival of the strongest and most violent, where your mythical 'alphas' prowl and inseminate any woman they come across?

Hell, why bother with police, government, international diplomacy, human rights or any of that law rubbish?

Frankly, if you are not a troll, you are either a fascist, a neanderthal or an idiot.

I ask with trepidation - are you actually a lawyer?
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Like+2 Object-5 Lawyers 7 years ago
Well, what the "police, government, international diplomacy, human rights or any of that law rubbish" seeks to do is reign in the type of behavior I have highlighted. Look at Africa, Sri Lanka, Middle and Far-East including Pakistan, Afghanistan.. and in India, Bihar, Punjab, UP, Bengal.

Soft-pedaling moderation (on any issue) has never created Anything. And will continue to create nothing, but people who gently smile at each other and drink camomile tea with low-fat butter cookies...

Of course, 'alphas' prowl.. not just in India but the world over. The Bond video you posted is ample evidence of that, even in the so-called developed UK. If you chose to ignore, then you do so sitting in your own cloud of denial.

Scrape the very thin veneer of civility of civilization, KG - and see things for what they are. No more No less. It is not pretty, of course - So?
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Like+3 Object-0 Sad Curious 7 years ago
It is comments like this from trolls such as you who spoil the fun of a good debate. It was fun while it lasted.
Mihira, Kian, I guess your hands are already full dealing with such idiotic rubbish. All the best!
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Like+0 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
fantastic to know, this crap things are done by those who punishes other , what about them itself
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Like+4 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
To the representative of alpha males: is it your belief that men who oppose the philosophy of 'burn, pillage, conquer etc' are panzyboys and non-alpha males? So, most spiritual leaders, social reformers, pro-affirmative action thinkers are panzyboys? Also, do your alpha males standby and applaud other alpha males who molest the womenfolk of their own household?
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Like+2 Object-2 Lawyers 7 years ago
I represent neither (a) nor (b).. I try to see the truth as it is - Vippassana-like!

There are enough wolves in sheep's clothing spiritual leaders .. a la Rajneesh, Asaram etc. So you do get the drift i hope.

At the risk of repetition, sexual harrasment and sexual impropriety is merely an extension of acquisitive and controlling behavior of males who are programmed to or by their own desire, wish to dominate.

They are the mice that the cat of "balance" or "justice" or "equitable treatment of sexes" tries to catch. And about as successful in eradicating.

How many of you have any first-hand experience of being with, say for example, a multi-billionaire or a CM/PM or a powerful criminal??! In my 25+ years of practising law, I have seen enough of them - to conclude that the "Alpha" theory merits serious attention. And fear. And good luck if you think true "balance" can be achieved.
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Like+1 Object-0 A Kabir 7 years ago
Do I smell A-Tool here?
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Like+2 Object-2 People Who Change 7 years ago
Dear All,

I have worked for over 16 years in a law firm type environment. Besides the fact that I can claim that I was probably even as a guy harrassed sexually by a women senior using Mihira experiences as any guide post.

I want to come to all the Male seniors i had besides being good at all the work I did, I had to deal with in my career with some unusually difficult bosses, once I had to arrange for a passport for my boss withhin 48 hours for which I had pull so many strings, so many times I had to assist with the shopping of my seniors, organise birthday's family functions and be at the recieving end of unusually harsh behaviour, including being stimagtized and victimised for refusing unreasonable personal request from my Seniors. I was in one year denied bonus and increment when I refused a significant personal favour for my boss who was very very senior in the profession and a managing partner of the firm.

I know with today's standards all of this would be considered as workplace harrasment but I have alway's considered this having lived " Life" this is real Life for you guys.. do we really expect when we go to a workplace we will have a super sanitized work environment and everybody will be magically perfect not have any biases will not misbehave or have unreasonable expectations from you.. I would like to say grow up people its not a matter of a guy on guy action or a guy on girl action. Fundamentally, I would argue when you step out to work its suppose to be challenging is that you have to deal with real world variables...

I am not defending anything whatsover, I am just wanting to say that Indian experienced this huge public outrage on this Nirbhaya case and since then Womanism (that's the word i think is appropriate) is finding new expression in our social space, but every day people who are at the work place Men and Women both and irrespective of whether they report to bosses of the same gender or opposite gender are faced with unreasonable requests..and thats probably life.. ask a government official who risk being transferred or some banker who can fired or re-allocated or a bonus withheld or some other action the legal profession is as exposed to harrasment as any other..

Lets teach our next generation to stand up to Life...
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Like+4 Object-3 ajay k gupta 7 years ago
A lucid and rare expression of the delicate sensation of hurt felt by a woman in these situations.Sheer reading of it will add to improve ones character. Thanks and God Bless Mihira
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Like+2 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
To mr vipassana:
With all due respect, I understand the truth you are expounding. According to me, your opinion/truth that exploitative actions of what you call alpha males, is to be understood as nature's way, is deterministic thinking, and deserves to be rejected. Kindly reflect for five minutes on the history of mankind, and it will become clear to you that man has progressed through the ages, and that progress has been grounded in the realization that the old ways must change and give way to something better. What you are suggesting is the opposite of progress. Your powerful cm/pm/ceo also cannot abuse their power and admit to their dastardly acts, because even they know what they are doing is wrong. So what they will resort to is hypocrisy. And kindly do not cite examples of politicians as prime examples of what society admires. Men are not by nature prone to be bad - if you have only encountered such men then you are truly unfortunate.
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Like+2 Object-2 a lawyer 7 years ago
I am giving the following response without trying to take sides in the above matter. Are we saying that if a girl assumes that there is harassment - there is harassment. In USA and other places "reasonable woman standard" is used to determine whether sexual harassment or not. If a gentleman acts chivalrously it can be harassment for some and a gentlemanly act for another. We have to discover a good yardstick to ascertain what constitutes sexual harassment. Having said this some females also who uses their "femininity" and "sensuality" to get favors of increments, orders, appointments, promotions etc. etc. So the world is not all black or white.
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Like+2 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
Each case of sexual harrassment has to be assessed on its own merits. Just like any other case. In India, roadside Romeos have been known to murder women who object to their verbal harassment. If the ego of the harrasser is bruised at the workplace, things have been known to get very nasty. Is it chivalrous to send a coworker obscene emails, when there is no familiarity between the two? In cases that become problematic enough for the girl to voice her concern, it becomes amply clear that the harasser was well aware of the nature of his actions - he will never admit to committing those acts. Which he very well could if he truly believed he was acting out of chivalry.
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Like+1 Object-0 mfakir 7 years ago
?ndian women and worlds womens do a revouloution. Sexism is in everywhere!
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Like+3 Object-2 Guest 7 years ago
Also, one sees several male advocates share an easy camaraderie with the bench, and display ample charm and cajole judges in the course of their arguments. What do you call that? Persuasiveness? And if a female advocate so much as smiles, it is immediately said that is what got her a favorable order. A judge who can be persuaded by factors other than the merit of the argument may also be amenable to other kinds of favors, that male advocates can offer. Do not mix issues.
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Like+2 Object-2 A Lawyer 7 years ago
This is a new world where every woman wants to "look sexy", with my "sexuality on your face" attitude; but of course without desiring for "dirty looks". There is more sexuality (skin show) on the road and newspaper pages than in the bedrooms of an average Indian Household. We should blame men who cannot control with patriarchal mindset !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, It is not easy to be a man in this world, unless of course one is an LGBT!! LGBT is the only sexuality celebrated in modern times. I was personally "sexually harassed" by with inappropriate touches, including by an LGBT Eye specialist whom I visited for eye test, one LGBT tried to kiss me in a lift- surely I felt violated- it helped me to understand the plight of all persons, male and female, who get sexually harassed. But do I have right? NO because I am a non-LGBT male, which according to feminists and LGBT, representative of PATRIARCHY!!!!!!!!!
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Like+2 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
Well there you have it. No person deserves to be harassed. Anyone who is, is entitled to seek redressal. Redressal should be the object and not justifications and outlandish explanations like alpha male theories.
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Like+0 Object-0 justlikethat 7 years ago
Kian, i know you moderate comments and i know some of my comments were a lame attempt at humour, but i thought that your website could deal with a bit of it given the sexual harassment overdose it is currently going through.
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Like+1 Object-2 Priyanka 7 years ago
I reckon with you completely.Proud of you that you finally chose to break free from silence.All women must unite to fight against this mentality of treating a woman as an object of leisure and lust.This must stop.High time !!
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Like+5 Object-1 The Side Effect Observer 7 years ago
Keeping in mind that this is inherently a topic that is prone to excite passions much more than say, the Companies Act of 2013, I am going to try and be fair about this. Firstly, to MS, SJ and every woman who has had to bear this sort of nonsense, I apologize on behalf of every male lawyer for indulging, tolerating, turning a blind eye to, or otherwise failing to actively watch out for such instances and counter it. The failing is as much ours for not fighting it with alacrity as it is of the perpetrators. Having said that, I have to add that I fail to see the point of what, to me, seems like inward-looking, partially substantiated internet activism, which hinders the cause of women rather than helps it. Please note that I do not endorse every such reason, and my enumerating them here does not lend my acceptance of them as fair or just or equitable. These are merely my suggestions and observations of VERY REAL OUTCOMES of recent events, reported impartially.

Within the legal fraternity at least, the unfortunate, pathetic truth is that it's common knowledge that harassment is rife, whether at court or within firms. Accordingly, I don't believe articles that state, in effect, "I was harassed by someone at court. I am not going to say who because of my own reasons. Just saying." really do much for the cause of highlighting positive attention to the issue at hand. Please understand that all I'm saying is that the bare minimum I expect from any action taken towards countering sexual harassment is at least naming the person involved, if not proceeding against such persons legally. I have read the reasons cited for not doing so, and here is my opinion on it. Iunderstand people are not named partly because of no vendetta existing between the victims and the accused. I think if you're going far enough to say you don't really harbor any real grudges against said persons, and given everyone already knows of the existence of this problem, it's a cop-out to just come forward and claim the unfortunate attention accompanying victimhood without fulfilling the responsibilities of a law-abiding victim, that of proceeding against the guilty. In other words, your credibility comes into question for half-measures such as this. I personally also do not buy fear of repercussion as an argument. Given the kind of attention rightly accorded to these issues in today's times (where a maid is unafraid of proceeding against a mid-tier Bollywood actor), I tend to believe that our sisters at the bar are in a position to speak out more freely than through benaami articles on the internet, but maybe that's just my congenital male security kicking in; you know, the one nurtured over generations of Indian chauvinism. Please let me further clarify that I am all for ANY action against harassment and that my objection to this sort is not merely because I deem it insufficient and non-committal, but because I sincerely believe that the outcomes I have observed in court have leaned towards multiple male lawyers mentioning, joking or in some cases, even sincerely stating their trepidation against hiring women as their juniors. They do not fear this because they do not trust their own demeanor or passions, mind you: They fear this because they believe that any junior of theirs, could walk out of their chamber some day, work with another lawyer who does subject her to harassment, followed by which such victim could post an article describing her harassment by, let us say, "a very senior lawyer that she had worked with". While ordinarily a general piece without naming the perpetrator ought to have been fine, but contributors should realize that it directly leads to aspersions of doubt being cast on every single person fitting into the brief, broad and vague traits that they do deem fit to disclose about the perpetrators. Another outcome I tend to note is more worrisome. If you tend to indicate with the wave of a hand rather than a pointed finger, you tend to engage in the fallacy of synecdoche: I believe the absence of specific information has tainted the reputation of the bar altogether unfairly. While I reiterate that I KNOW this is a rampant problem that needs to be addressed, let me only state that there remains a difference between a problem being prevalent and a problem being universal; while the former tends to evoke constant vigilance, the latter often evokes dismissal outright. For instance, my cousin is currently studying law and had expressed her inclination towards litigation. However, given the recent spate of events, her parents are now actively dissuading her from practising in New Delhi. If, on the other hand, the victims had come out and at least taken legal recourse against the accused, I think women everywhere could have taken courage from their examples and found faith in their own abilities to address problems as serious as this. These articles to me seem like informative advisory notices which describe the illness without really identifying either the specific causes or the solutions involved. The value of such articles is outweighed by the deterrence they create in both, the entry of women at the bar, as well as the welcome that certain paranoid members of the bar extends to them. If you've read this far, bear with me a little longer: MS, SJ and everyone else. Please do not mistake this comment as a questioning or examination of your experience, nor do I mean to devalue or criticize the efforts you have taken towards a solution. I merely advise caution going forward and a holistic approach to your efforts wherein you think of every possible aspect of the impact your efforts may have. I sincerely hope that future efforts in this respect keep this in mind.
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Like+3 Object-1 kianganz 7 years ago
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

I take issue with the following, however, that you write
"Within the legal fraternity at least, the unfortunate, pathetic truth is that it's common knowledge that harassment is rife, whether at court or within firms. Accordingly, I don't believe articles that state, in effect, "I was harassed by someone at court. I am not going to say who because of my own reasons. Just saying." really do much for the cause of highlighting positive attention to the issue at hand."
Surely, the reason that it's common knowledge only in the fraternity and not actually a bigger concern to anyone, is that this awareness hadn't permeated into the mainstream dialogue yet, because NO ONE, 'sisters at the bar' or otherwise, had really stated even the obvious, as far as I'm aware, or perhaps explained it in a readily understandable manner...

In the past few weeks now, pretty much every single lawyer, newspaper and TV station is aware of what was 'common knowledge' inside the legal profession. And maybe something is now being done to fight it properly, just partly because of Mihira's and SJ's courage in taking the small steps they did?

And that their accounts didn't live up to what you or others expected of your 'sisters at the bar', should not be their problem, but the bar's, for not having addressed the problem earlier.
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Like+4 Object-0 The Side Effect Observer 7 years ago
Quoting kianganz:
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

I take issue with the following, however, that you write
"Within the legal fraternity at least, the unfortunate, pathetic truth is that it's common knowledge that harassment is rife, whether at court or within firms. Accordingly, I don't believe articles that state, in effect, "I was harassed by someone at court. I am not going to say who because of my own reasons. Just saying." really do much for the cause of highlighting positive attention to the issue at hand."

Surely, the reason that it's common knowledge only in the fraternity and not actually a bigger concern to anyone, is that this awareness hadn't permeated into the mainstream dialogue yet, because NO ONE, 'sisters at the bar' or otherwise, had really stated even the obvious, as far as I'm aware, or perhaps explained it in a readily understandable manner...

In the past few weeks now, pretty much every single lawyer, newspaper and TV station is aware of what was 'common knowledge' inside the legal profession. And maybe something is now being done to fight it properly, just partly because of Mihira's and SJ's courage in taking the small steps they did?

And that their accounts didn't live up to what you or others expected of your 'sisters at the bar', should not be their problem, but the bar's, for not having addressed the problem earlier.
Dear Kian,

Thank you for granting your consideration to my comment. With respect to the portion of my comment you take issue with, I do believe I clarified my point elsewhere as to not taking issue with the existence of, or whatever modicum of good brought by, these articles, but to the fact that their inadequacy, or what strikes me as their inadequacies, does have an adverse effect. Whether or not such adverse effect outweighs the good it does is, I suppose, subjective. My opinion is it does. I believe any act that could have a good, as well as a bad impact ought to be treated responsibly. You're absolutely right about the fact that these have helped highlight to the mainstream media and population the existence of an erstwhile evil-that-must-not-be-named. Nonetheless, do try and see that I am not opposed to the dissemination of information; I only seek a responsible outlet. MS, SJ and others obviously, unselfishly said what they had to say with the best intentions. This was my way of highlighting, without devaluing their efforts, to them and to everyone else who, heaven forbid, may have to consider this path in the future that their words matter, for good, but unfortunately for bad as well. It's odd that I sense a tinge of almost adversarial criticism in your response to my comment, but maybe I'm just imagining it. Nonetheless, do let me clarify that this comment was never about my expectations from the efforts of anyone, but merely a word of caution, delivered post-facto after having observed the side-effect (I know, not subtle) of the efforts in concern. Also, because a turn of phrase as innocuous as 'sisters at the bar', utilized only as syntax to denote women lawyers within legitimate context, seems to have registered well enough in your editorial consciousness to have manifested twice in your response (within quotes, that too), please reast easy: this observer has been disciplined. I will henceforth only refer to men and women at court with the non-discriminatory and gender neutral 'colleagues at the bar'.
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Like+1 Object-0 kianganz 7 years ago
Thanks for your response, and apologies if I seemed too adversarial - I may have just been in a bit of a hurry when I responded to a comment which I feel is basically, without trying to be personal, a lazy straw man argument used to discredit allegations in such cases.

Sure, in an ideal world victims and media would all name alleged harassers in clear cases. And sure, a little bit of fallout happens in that maybe 1 or 2 lawyers who are completely innocent are now suspected unfairly by a few people.

That doesn't take away from the need for someone to come out and actually speak about their experience. And actually, in these cases, it's a lot more conducive to intelligent discussion NOT to name someone. Witness what's happening in the Tejpal case - once an actionable allegation is made against an individual, that individual (and their legal counsel), inevitably ends up throwing mud at the accuser.

As it stands, everyone can discuss the general menace and how to solve them, rather than making it personal, and a he said, she said.

Finally, that argument you and others have been making is an argument you could make against almost any major scandal written about by the media, which upsets those in power.

Snowden: why tell this story because it might hurt some legitimate interests of the United States and its allies?

Wikileaks: Some sources might be compromised when war crimes are exposed / governments embarrassed by leaked cables.

Watergate: When the allegations were first made, it creates distrust of the administration and a great and popular president

(And paedophilia in the Catholic Church, Lewinsky-Clinton, phone hacking, etc, etc...)

I appreciate your "words of caution" were honestly felt, but sometimes such words or theoretical arguments are ammunition that is harmfully used by those actually seeking to bury truths.

Best wishes,

Ps: I quite liked the expression 'sisters at the bar' actually :)
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Like+4 Object-1 The Side Effect Observer 7 years ago
Firstly, I don't see anything straw-manesque about my stance because I have at no point attacked or misrepresented the arguments made by MS or SJ. I have merely taken issue with the manner in which the arguments were made. I am not arguing that I am right because their arguments are wrong, I am merely saying disagreeing with the unreserved championing of these efforts without any attention being drawn to the flipside of it. Perhaps your haste to respond to straw men is only exceeded by your haste in judging me, or what I have to say, as just another dissenter.

Considering your evident penchant for analogies, consider this: by your argument, any medicine that alleviates a disease, in part or in while, but has serious side-effects (I could do this all day) should be unabashedly touted as a signficant achievement, while anyone who stands up and says, sure, "My head doesn't ache that much anymore, but my nipples fell off and I can't smell anything" should have to endure the Wrath of Kian (Trekkie4evayawlz).

Let me restrict the rest of my rebuttals to bullet points:

(i) For you, it's a question of one or two lawyers, a casualty of war, so to speak. I think the number is higher, speaking as a member of the Delhi bar, and, again, while you'd be quick to dismiss such casualties as necessary, I'd advise caution in abundance.

(ii) You and I are on the same page, Kian, about one thing. More and more women need to speak out, and up until now not enough of us have been listening. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I hope that women at least consider what I'm trying to get across: One, everyone is or should be listening right now. Two, what you're saying could hurt as much as help. Three, if you, on the basis of my comments, at least keep in mind points one and two when you make your efforts in the future, I believe the hurt can be minimized and the help enhanced.

(iii) Speaking of the instances you raised, Kian, at least with respect to the ones I'm familiar with (Wikileaks and Watergate, for instance), it behooves me to tell you that your instances are not only not comparable, but the precise opposite of what my point is: I am all for necessary upheaval in power structures being justified by speaking out and bringing attention to things that deserve it. My issue is with incomplete or seemingly irresponsible outlets leading to an absence of clarity, thereby resulting in as much harm as good. Building on your own analogy, what if Monica Lewinsky had come forward and simply stated someone at the White House had harassed her? Or if Julian Assange hadn't released diplomatic cables from the White House but had only said, "I have some stuff I intercepted. It's pretty bad, guys. Can't tell you more, but you know, just be afraid."

(iv) Finally, my arguments are theoretical to the extent that I, not having been born a woman, do not know first-hand what it would feel like in such a situation. Nonetheless, to devalue my input as 'words or theoretical arguments', without for a second considering that perhaps I have a wife or friends at the Bar that I care about, or screw that, irrespective, that sexual harassment and the overall improvement of the Bar aren't things that matter enough to me for me to have a cogent, rational, unprejudiced opinion on is uncalled for. Thank you for your unwarranted patronizing with respect to my thoughts on what ironically has been termed an opinion piece. You're right: My theoretical arguments hold no weight against the real trials and tribulations of MS, SJ and others, but thank you for bringing me to the truth: If a woman stands up and alleges sexual harassment, I am expected to tread lightly and let her actions go unblemished and unquestioned, even if I have concerns that I truly feel for. The true irony is that this is pretty much exactly what I wanted to highlight in the first place: That there's this stigma attached with this subject matter that lends gravity to the words of the victim, as it rightly should. If, however, I were to urge such individuals to not respond to their afflictions without considering the impact it may have collaterally, I stand answerable to an ocean of glibness harping on the courage of those who spoke out and the wonders of mainstream attention. Funnily enough, I never contested those to begin with. Thank you also for the back-handed condescension that was the implication that my words of caution (again, with quotes!) are honestly felt, because, gee, I'm constantly seeking external validation for my sincerity, but no wait, you're right. My words will only come in handy for those who are actually seeking to bury the truth. No, it won't help people take a fair perspective without being overwhelmed by the disgust they should feel at sexual harassment. No, it won't help women come out and make declarations with at least some consideration to the possible side-effects. Last of all, it won't help people trying to make sense on an LI forum at all. It'll help chauvinistic monkeys that blame harassment on the victims and other equally contemptible animals that bury truths.
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Like+1 Object-0 kianganz 7 years ago
Thanks for your response, I don't think we disagree, per se. I reiterate again, I did not mean to argue against you personally but merely against the type of argument you presented.

You may have phrased it in a balanced manner, but a lot of others do not, and have not in this thread or others. Some people were using exactly the argument that the accusations are irresponsible to try and sweep this issue under the carpet or implicitly discredit the accuser as irresponsible (or, in a similarly sinister mould, that such accusations are irresponsible because they will cause women to lose internship opportunities at the bar or the bench).

Sure, it's a fair point, but IMHO it's neither Warp engine science nor something that deserves major debate or ethical soulsearching (at least journalistically).

Personally, I also wouldn't have had a problem with Lewinsky saying she was sexually harassed in the White House by 'someone', if that results in the issue actually being discussed (and arguably, naming Clinton resulted in a political farce and denials that must have cost the US economy billions in unproductive TV viewers and politicians and lawyers. And I'm sure Clinton is not the only sexual harasser ever to have worked in the White House).

Or, for argument's sake, someone blowing the whistle and saying, by the way, rape exists in the US army, but I don't want to name names - if you care enough, find out yourself.

Similarly, Watergate wasn't born one day as a fully-fledged story - it was pieced together through hundreds of newspaper reports, building on previous reports, adding facts and angles bit by bit, telling an incomplete story, that finally turned the case from a simple break-in into a constitutional crisis (not saying our reporting is comparable, but do read All the President's Men, if you haven't already - if Woodward and Berstein had named Nixon in their first, second or even tenth story, without thousands of hours of reporting, they would have probably been assassinated by the FBI).

However, in some ways we have a similar situation here. These young women have raised the flag, the issue has got the attention of the media, and now it is up to the appropriate authorities (or the profession) to find out the rest (or for the media to start investigating more thoroughly and exposing any alleged injustices).

Best wishes,
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Like+0 Object-0 Guest 7 years ago
Considering we're apparently in agreement, and it's been a long day, let me not drag it out beyond saying that I understand the significance of a structured approach rather than one of breaking news. I disagree that it's necessary here or comparable because X lawyer and Nixon are two entirely different paradigms and further, because of the nature of events, with Watergate, people questioned the Nixon administration as a structure that people had the power to overthrow and replace, not the government as a concept. When someone comes along and says this about the Delhi bar, I urge you to believe we are undermining a concept. People realize they cannot choose to replace the bar or find assurance when, say, the bar association elections are concluded and the present powers are replaced. People mistrust the bar as a concept. Maybe not everyone, maybe not even a lot, but some sure do, and that, to me is to be and can be avoided.

I frequently find that the people passionate about urging checks and balances against a particular evil are often unmindful of the impact of their own actions in the pursuit of their respective ideals. Surely, a check and balance against them isn't entirely uncalled for? And surely, the exercise of caution I have been speaking for isn't warp engine science either?

Lastly, while I haven't read the book, I have watched the film multiple times. Accordingly, I ask you to think of me not as the FBI, but as Bradlee, who constantly urged caution at relying Deep Throat as a source, and demanding that allegations be made responsibly.
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Like+4 Object-1 The Side Effect Observer 7 years ago
Sorry, I had to add: Mihara, your article does not add value to what SJ had already stated. In fact, besides perpetuating the, in my opinion, myth that all women can do in such situations is write a blog about it and maybe have Kian pick up on it, it goes on to highlight that your experience falls well within the scope of sexual harassment. I do not believe in disputing facts that I am not fully aware of (and let's be honest, you haven't really given me much to work with here), but I have GOT to say that SJ's experience evoked genuine outrage, anger and disgust. Yours evoked outrage, definitely, because I understand the implicit threat of repercussion in the legal fraternity that exists between a senior lawyer and ajunior lawyer (men face it too, to a lesser extent, just not in animalistic ways like you have to bear). However, it seemed to just be a by-the-way-this-should-also-be-sexual-harassment story, when really, what this world needs right now is a this-is-how-you-deal-with-effing-criminals story.
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Like+0 Object-1 Guest 7 years ago
Or maybe its more like "catching the bus till you can afford the car"!! And if it is so, I fail to see whats wrong with it...
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Like+0 Object-0 Savitri 7 years ago
Make hay while the sun shines?
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