Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist

Napa rape claim case highlights bias against women

Themis, the personification of justice and natural law

By Cleopatra Kitti

There can’t be many women in Cyprus who don’t feel a deep sense of unease about the case of the British teenager sentenced last week for supposedly lying about being gang-raped by a group of Israeli tourists in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

The investigation of the case and the trial that followed, the media reporting of it and the reaction of the country – all bear the signs of something depressingly familiar: a bias against women in our institutions, our social norms, our media. Such bias is particularly felt by women in the context of sexual narratives and by those with the courage to speak out against it.

This week, the film Bombshell is released in Hollywood. Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, it is based on the true story of several women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

At the heart of both of these cases is the existence of an unnatural power imbalance, one that persists in almost every institution in overly male-dominated societies around the world.

This imbalance has existed for so long that it is often hard to see it, except in hindsight, but in cases such as these, there is clear and exceptional gender bias in assigning blame and silencing the female voice.

The fight, instead of being for the truth, becomes one for control of the narrative, and if the institutions are all dominated by men, that fight will rarely, if ever, be won.

This is repeated not just in the criminal courts, but in all legal frameworks that deal with opportunity, pay, dignity and freedom. Women don’t necessarily need to control the narrative, but they do need to be fairly represented within it.

The reason why this power imbalance should concern every one of us is that without balance, fairness and equality of representation there can be no justice on which to found our societies.

All over Greece and the West there are statues of the goddess Themis – the personification of divine and natural law, order and justice. And she is eternally, let us never forget, represented in the form of a woman.

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