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Silicon Valley, Google Walk Off To Protest Against Mishandling Of Sexual Harassment Cases

The workers went back to their offices but vowed to continue pressuring Google to change.

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Google, Web summit, sexual misconduct, trafficking
Google employees fill Harry Bridges Plaza in front of the Ferry Building during a walkout, Nov. 1, 2018, in San Francisco. Hundreds of Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job in a protest against what they said is the tech company's mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives. VOA

It was a protest that went around the globe.

From Singapore to Dublin, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Pryor, Oklahoma, Google employees walked out of their offices to protest the internet search giant’s handling of sexual discrimination cases, and express their frustration with its workplace culture.

In San Francisco, where Google has several offices, hundreds of workers congregated at a plaza where they gave speeches and held signs. One read: “I reported and he got promoted.”

The unusual protest — tech companies are not unionized and typically keep strife about personnel matters behind closed doors — riveted Silicon Valley, which has struggled in recent years over the treatment of women in the industry.

Resignation, severance

The Google protest was spurred by a New York Times story that outlined allegations against high-profile leaders at the firm, including Andy Rubin, known as “the father of Android,” who was reportedly paid $90 million in severance. Rubin has denied the allegations in the article, as well as reports of his severance amount.

Richard DeVaul, a director at X, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, resigned from the company on Tuesday. He was accused of making unwanted advances to a woman who was a job applicant at the firm.

 

Google, protest
Google employees walk off the job in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives. VOA

 

 List of demands

“We are a small part of a massive movement that has been growing for a long time,” protest organizers said in an article published in the online magazine The Cut. “We are inspired by everyone — from the women in fast food who led an action against sexual harassment to the thousands of women in the #metoo movement who have been the beginning of the end for this type of abuse.”

Leaders of the protest issued a list of demands, including that Alphabet add a worker-representative to its board of directors and that the firm internally disclose pay equity information.

They also asked the company to revise its human resources practices to make the harassment claims filing process more equitable, and to create a “publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.”

Google
Google employees gather in a courtyard as they take part in a walkout from their jobs at the Google campus in Kirkland, Washington. VOA

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that “as CEO, it’s been personally important to me that we take a much harder line on inappropriate behavior. … We have taken many steps to do so, and know our work is still not done.”

Social media protest

The global protest unfolded on Twitter and Facebook as employees from offices around the world posted photos of themselves walking out at the appointed time of 11:10 a.m.

Google
Tanuja Gupta, programming director at Google, addresses hundreds of Google employees during a protest rally. VOA

 

The greatest concentration of Google workers is in the San Francisco area. In San Bruno, 12 miles south of San Francisco, employees at YouTube, which is part of Google, walked out, as did those in Mountain View, company headquarters.

“As a woman, I feel personally unsafe, because if something were to happen, what accountability measures will be in place to make sure that justice is sought?” said Google employee Rana Abdelhamid at the San Francisco protest.

Christian Boyd, another Google employee, was angry about what she said was protecting the powerful, even in the face of credible allegations.

“It’s sad to see that what we consider the best companies are not immune to this, as well,” Boyd said.

Also Read: Everything You Need To Know About The #MeToo Movement

After 30 minutes of speeches, the workers went back to their offices but vowed to continue pressuring Google to change. (VOA)

Next Story

Eastern European And Central Asian Countries Urged To Change Laws Regarding Sexual Violence

Dekanosidze said legal changes were a vital part of wider measures needed to tackle sexual violence.

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Sexual Violence
A woman protests underage marriages in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. Underage marriage is a problem around the world. Activists are calling on former Soviet countries to overhaul laws against sexual violence and child marriage. VOA

Eastern European and Central Asian countries must overhaul Soviet-era laws on sexual violence that let rapists off the hook and encourage child marriage and bride-kidnapping, legal experts said Thursday.

Flawed legislation combined with sexist attitudes across the region mean girls and women are often blamed for provoking sexual violence and may be pressured to reconcile with their attackers or even marry them.

“Many of these laws deny justice to survivors of sexual violence rather than bringing their attackers to justice,” said Tamar Dekanosidze, a human rights lawyer in Georgia. “It’s important that countries fix these laws and end widespread impunity.”

 

Sexual Violence
Protest against sexual violence in India. Image source: www.bbc.co.uk

 

No requirement to investigate

In 10 of the 15 former Soviet Union countries there is no automatic requirement for the authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual violence, according to a study by Equality Now, meaning the burden of pursuing justice lies with the victim.

Police often deter victims from initiating cases, Dekanosidze said. Victims also frequently face pressure from the perpetrator, his family or even their own family to drop claims.

Nine of the countries — Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia — allow reconciliation for sexual violence crimes, according to the study published Thursday.

In some cases a perpetrator may persuade a victim to reconcile by paying her money or promising to marry her to avoid social stigma, said Dekanosidze, the report’s co-author.

 

Sexual Violence
A woman covers her mouth with a tape that reads “My sexuality is not your conjugal right” during a demonstration to support International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 25, 2016. VOA

 

Modernize rape laws

Equality Now, which will be writing to ministers across the region, also urged countries to amend laws that define rape as sex with violence or the threat of violence.

The report comes a week after Ukraine became the first country in the region to change its law to define rape as sex without consent, following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Iceland.

There is no reliable data on the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, but U.N. data suggests a third of women worldwide have suffered sexual or physical violence.

The report also said sexual violence usually went unpunished in bride kidnappings and child marriages, which still happen in some Eurasian countries.

Sexual Violence
FILE – Indian youth hold candles during a protest against sexual violence in New Delhi. VOA

Marriage after rape

Child marriages are illegal in all 15 countries, but may be encouraged if a girl is raped to prevent public shame.

Rape is not investigated in such situations, meaning the forced marriage effectively exonerates the rape, the study said.

Dekanosidze cited the case of a 15-year-old girl in Georgia who was raped by two men. When the teenager reported the attacks, her family forced her to marry one of her rapists.

Also Read: People Hope to Get Transparency in System With #MeToo Movement

In bride kidnappings, rape is often used as a tool to force the girl into marriage.

Dekanosidze said legal changes were a vital part of wider measures needed to tackle sexual violence.

“Laws can change public attitudes,” she said. “Amending these laws would send a strong message that sexual violence won’t be tolerated.” (VOA)