Officer wants 'randy' female cop restrained

26 November 2013 - 03:03 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE and NASHIRA DAVIDS

A high-ranking policeman has turned to the Equality Court for redress, alleging that sexual harassment by a female colleague has affected his ability to do his work and placed his marriage under strain.

The 39-year-old metro police superintendent accuses an officer of the same rank of harassing him at work by making sexually provocative remarks, which escalated to fondling.

The superintendent's legal action is against his employer, the City of Cape Town, for failing to protect him.

He said he launched the legal action this month as a last resort after he exhausted all internal processes. He claims that, because he is a man, managers dismissed his complaints and merely told him to move office.

Legal experts say such cases are extremely rare in South Africa as men are hesitant to accuse female sex pest bosses for fear of being mocked by peers. This trend is increasing internationally, with more women moving to senior positions.

In the complainant's court papers, it emerged that problems surfaced in January when he shared an office with the alleged perpetrator.

He said he had to raise the height of his computer screen to avoid her unnerving stares, and was subjected to suggestive remarks.

"[She] would move close to me [and] ask: 'Can I sit on your lap?'."

The woman allegedly struck again five months later.

"[She] asked me when we were again in our offices alone: 'What will you do if I undress in front of you?' I was so embarrassed that I replied: 'You have nothing that my wife doesn't possess'."

He said things reached a tipping point when he played with a stress ball - bowling it like a cricket ball towards the door. She appeared in the doorway.

"[She] opened her legs and suggested I need to bowl the stress ball through her legs. [She] posed for a few seconds and I froze."

In another incident in July, he was in a meeting with the woman and his boss.

"Suddenly my cellphone rang and I found myself engaged in a call. During this time I felt [her] gently touching my right thigh with her left hand and stroking it gently. I froze and felt extremely uncomfortable ..."

He said the incidents caused him "emotional and professional turmoil, embarrassment, shame, trouble in marriage [and] brought my good name into disrepute".

Yesterday, his union representative, Sidney Flusk, confirmed that he had lodged the application.

City spokesman Priya Reddy said: "We have not filed papers at the Equality Court yet as our papers are only due on December 2."

In his 30-year experience, labour lawyer Michael Bagraim said he wa s aware of only three cases of sexual harassment against women.

"It affects men in a big way. Men are too scared to then show their faces at work again. In fact, in one case the man actually resigned because he was so embarrassed."

Joe Mothibi of Norton Rose Fulbright law firm in Johannesburg said such cases we re on the rise internationally, especially in Europe and the US.

He said men were being subjected to sexual harassment by women in higher positions.

"It is more to do with the power dynamics in the workplaces, which is why in our law having sexual harassment policies and people being aware of their rights are so important," said Mothibi.

Javu Baloyi, spokesman for the Commission for Gender Equality, said such cases questioned the socialisation of men.

"In their upbringing men are socialised to be strong, protective. It is against this backdrop that they find it difficult to report cases of abuse," said Baloyi.

Marc Kahn, a clinical psychologist and head of human resources at Investec, said gender equity worked both ways. For a victim - male or female - it is generally difficult to come forward.

But men are more hesitant.

"Silly, short-sighted and immature judgments from other men about them being overpowered by a woman could prevent them from coming forward. They are afraid of being shamed," said Kahn.