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Chen/Palmer Doesn't Understand Human Rights!

© Peter Zohrab

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On November 20th 2014, I saw and heard law-firm Chen/Palmer's spokesman James Dunne on television. He was talking about the scandal involving Roger Sutton, former boss of the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority.  I do not disagree with his main message, which was that the admitted perpetrators of sexual harassment should not be allowed to hold press conferences about the issue, when their victims are bound to secrecy and want anonymity.

However, as you can see from the following article: http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/criticism-mounts-over-handling-of-roger-sutton-case-2014112009 , the way that James Dunne worded his comments was not gender-neutral (and I quote from that article):

"It's very difficult for women in these kind of positions, when you're complaining against senior men in positions of power, to make those kind of complaints.

"The concern is if those complaints are then aired publicly, it re-victimises the complainant – which isn't fair – and it actually creates a chilling effect on other women who are thinking about complaining as well, and that's certainly not what we want. We want to see these issues being raised promptly and as quickly as possible, and we don't want a scenario in which women who have legitimate complaints feel they can't speak out."

This is what we might call Top-Level sexism on the part of James Dunne.  It is not just the Second-Level sexism of Acts of Parliament, where you have gender-neutral language, but an atmosphere of "nudge-nudge, wink-wink", where it is understood that the bad guys are all men and the good guys are all women.  In the present case, Dunne explicitly mentions women as victims three times, and only mentions men in the role of perpetrators!  As a victim of female sexual harassment in a female-dominate workplace myself, I do not appreciate this sexism on the part of New Zealand's leading Public Law practice -- but it makes me understand why New Zealand apparently only has one single Human Rights law firm!

In addition, Dunne uses the plural pronoun we.  It is not clear who this we refers to, but it must be some form of the Royal we.  The only Royalty that exists in New Zealand is women, and his boss, Mai Chen, is a Feminist.  So what Dunne probably means is that right-thinking Feminists like him and his firm don't want women subjected to anything that they don't like in the workplace -- while it would be perfectly acceptable for men to be subjected to things that they don't like!

Human Rights law (as I learned in Law School) is part of Public Law, so it says a lot about New Zealand (but nothing that I didn't already know) that New Zealand's leading Public Law firm ignores Human Rights -- the right of men not to be discriminated against.


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Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

13 September 2020