Three cheers to Gabriella! – 25 May 2011

That she was a cheer-leader at IPL matches did not mean anything more than that. In no way did it suggest that the beautiful girl had a loose character. That she was a cheer-leader only suggests that this was her work – assignment which she was doing zealously. But 22-year-old South African cheer-leader Gabriella Pasqualotto lost her job only because she refused to do anything else, like accepting indecent proposals by cricketers. And to make things clearer, she wrote about the bad experience on her blog. The authorities did not tolerate such an outrage and threw her out. Poor Gabriella was packed off to South Africa.

Her innocence in sharing on her blog her experiences was Gabriella’s undoing. She may never remain without job, of course. She has got from Bollywood film-makers offers which she may or may not accept. But for the present, the beautiful girl has lost her job. By any standard, this is a blot on a civilised society whose mandarins refuse to accept and acknowledge lots of truths that form the ugly underbelly of an unhealthy social system. Strictly speaking, this unpleasant episode is in the category of sexual harassment at workplace and subsequent victimisation of the girl, almost like rubbing salt into the wound. The authorities meant to say to Gabriella, in effect, ‘Hell with you’.

Frankly, this is not funny. This is unacceptable. For, in simpler terms, it indicates that as a society, we are yet to begin respecting women in new work environment. A few years ago, the term ‘cheer-leaders’ did not exist in this form. Then change came. In many sports, cheer-leaders have become commonplace, cricket in its shortest version being one. Naturally, for those girls, that is nothing but doing a job to make a living. Gabriella Pasqualotto has alleged that a lot of cricketers harboured wrong ideas. She did not like it. So, out of disgust, she wrote about the experience on twitter. The authorities did not appreciate such expose. They may have warned Gebriella against such a blogging. She may not have listened to them. So, they threw her out. The IPL guys seem bad managers.

Factually, they should have taken Gabriella seriously. They should have enquired into the allegations. They should have warned cricketers, too, against any nonsense. But that does not seem to have happened, media reports have one believe. This is not acceptable. In truly civilised societies, such episodes are taken seriously. In civilised societies, sexual harassment of women at workplace is an anathema. In societies that have loose collective morals, it is unfortunately commonplace. Of course, medieval times saw the Indian society ill-treating its women. However, ancient sayings indicate how India respected its women. Gods reside in places where women are worshipped, one of those sayings meant. But those were ancient times. Things changed for the worse. And today, notwithstanding the fact that women have become an integral and equal part of India’s collective workforce, cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace keep cropping up in good numbers. And, this does not suggest anything bright in our society’s favour.

There is also a law in place to deal with such cases. Yet, experience shows that a good number of women tolerate a lot of nonsense rather than complain officially. They do so obviously because they are afraid of the aftermath which is more likely to be unpleasant than anything. Yet the very fact that the Government felt it appropriate to enact a law to stop sexual harassment of women at workplace is enough to prove that such cases are on the increase. Gabriella Pasqualotto’s case, too, is one such. Since the IPL authorities have taken a stand – of throwing her
out – the case may never reach its logical culmination as Gabriella may not want to pursue the matter. After all, she, too, has to care for her career, and may choose not to take a confrontationist course. Yet, by any standard, the story makes an unpleasant reading, with nothing to cheer about.

Nevertheless, we who believe that women must arise awake and come forward to register complaints and make loud protests of harassment, sexual or otherwise, we have lots to cheer about what Gabriella did. So three cheers to her!

Published in The Hitavada – Womens world Persona for 25 May 2011

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