Category Archives: feminism

Muslim waitress wins nearly £3,000 for hurt feelings over skimpy dress

A Muslim cocktail waitress who quit after refusing to wear a bright red dress for work has won almost £3,000 in compensation for sexual harassment.

Fata Lemes, 33, was handed the payout even though a tribunal panel rejected her claim that the dress was “sexually revealing and indecent”.

It concluded that the Bosnian Muslim “holds views about modesty and decency which some might think unusual in Britain in the 21st century”.

But it accepted that Miss Lemes genuinely believed that the short, low-cut dress was “disgusting” and made her look “like a prostitute”.

Bosses at the Rocket bar and restaurant in London’s Mayfair should have made allowance for her feelings and their insistence that she wear the dress amounted to sexual harassment, it ruled.

The panel at Central London Employment Tribunal found that Miss Lemes “overstated” her trauma at being asked to wear the sleeveless dress that was open at the back.

It rejected Miss Lemes’ claim that she was left with no choice but to walk out of her job after just eight days.

It branded her compensation claim of £20,000 including £17,500 for hurt feelings – as “manifestly absurd”.

But it awarded her £2,919.95 for hurt feelings and loss of earnings.

Miss Lemes told the tribunal that she “might as well be naked” in the dress, adding: “I was brought up a Muslim and am not used to wearing sexually attractive clothes.”

A photo of Miss Lemes on Facebook, however, showed her wearing a low cut T-shirt revealing her cleavage.

In its judgment, the panel ruled that restaurant group Spring & Greene, which owns the Rocket chain, must “take their victim as they find her”.

It said of the dress: “It is eye-catching, not only because of its colour but also because of its cut and lines.

“It is clearly a garment for a girl or young woman. It is intended to, and does, show the curves of the body.

“It seeks to make the wearer attractive. It might be seen as a party dress or something to wear at an informal celebration.”

But the panel ruled that wearing the dress could not amount to “conduct of a sexual nature”.

Miss Lemes told how she was pestered for sex by customers at the bar shortly after starting work in May last year.

The tribunal ruled: “In our judgment, the effect of requiring her to wear the dress was to violate her dignity. We further consider that it created for her an environment which was degrading, humiliating and offensive.”

It pointed out that a summer uniform of “brightly coloured, figure-hugging garb” had not been introduced for male waiting staff.

But the tribunal rejected Miss Lemes’ claim of constructive dismissal.

The company’s lawyer Tom Grady told the tribunal: “There is no evidence to support the suggestion that it is a sex club or some sort of seedy brothel.”


Turkey breached human rights by not protecting wife

European Court rules that gender-based violence is a form of discrimination

By Nicholas Birch in Istanbul

In a landmark ruling that further undermined Turkey’s shaky reputation on human rights, a European Court yesterday found that the country’s government had failed to protect a woman who was brutalised by her husband for more than a decade.

The plaintiff in the case, Nahide Opuz, complained repeatedly about her husband’s violence to the police before he shot her mother dead. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2008 only to be immediately released pending an appeal against the verdict. Police withdrew the protection that Ms Opuz had requested after only three days.

Ordering Turkey to pay Ms Opuz €36,500 (£31,400), the European Court of Human Rights said: “The general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey created a climate that was conducive to domestic violence.”

Women’s rights activists in Turkey welcomed the decision, which is the first time the court has ruled domestic violence constitutes gender discrimination. The decision is binding on all 47 members of the Council of Europe.

“This is exactly what I was hoping for,” said Pinar Ilkkaracan, a co-founder of the Women for Women’s Rights group in Istanbul. “It says clearly that… laws are not enough. The state has failed… in not providing mechanisms protecting women under threat.”

Turkey began updating laws on domestic violence in 1998 and its legislation now barely differs from its European neighbours. But as Ms Opuz’s story shows, mentalities and implementation lag far behind.

On four occasions after 1996, Ms Opuz and her mother complained to the police about the violence of Ms Opuz’s husband, which ranged from beatings that doctors deemed life-threatening to running both women over with a car. Twice, the courts let him off with a fine.

After his release, the husband remained a menace. “He continues to threaten my client, but the police withdrew protection after only three days.” Ms Opuz’s lawyer, Mesut Bestas, said.

In its statement, the court registered its “grave concern” that the authorities “continue to display inaction”.

A women’s rights activist in Ankara, Hidayet Tuksal, said Ms Opuz’s plight shed light on a key problem facing Turkish victims of domestic violence: the lack of women’s shelters.

Regulations require towns with populations of more than 50,000 to open shelters, but, Ms Tuksal said, “there are no sanctions for those which do not, [and] municipalities see this as discretionary. Everywhere I hear the same thing: ‘our men would be very upset by this.'” Two years ago, the conservative mayor of Ankara brushed off calls for more shelters by arguing that they encouraged prostitution.

Andrea Coombers, the legal practice director at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights in London, said the court’s decision had relevance beyond Turkey. In deciding only now that gender-based violence was a form of discrimination, the court was lagging a decade behind other parts of the developed world, said Ms Coombers, who intervened as a third party in the Opuz case. “This is a significant step in the right direction by the European Court,” she said.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer slaying church attendance among women

The report claims more than 50,000 women a year have deserted their congregations over the past two decades because they feel the church is not relevant to their lives.

It says that instead young women are becoming attracted to the pagan religion Wicca, where females play a central role, which has grown in popularity after being featured positively in films, TV shows and books.

The study comes amid ongoing controversy over the role of women in all Christian denominations. Last month its governing body voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time, having admitted them to the priesthood in 1994, but traditionalist bishops have warned that hundreds of clergy and parishes will leave if the move goes ahead as planned.

The report’s author, Dr Kristin Aune, a sociologist at the University of Derby, said: “In short, women are abandoning the church.

“Because of its focus on female empowerment, young women are attracted by Wicca, popularised by the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church.

“Women’s ordination, as priests and now bishops, has dominated debate and headlines – but while looking at women in the pulpit we have taken our eyes off the pews, where a shift with more consequences for the church’s survival is underway.”

Her research, published in a new book called Women and Religion in the West, cites an English Church Census which found more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989.

Over the past decade, it claims, women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men. (Women are truly more intelligent)

In addition, the census is said to show that teenage boys now outnumber girls in the pews for the first time.

Dr Aune says the church must adapt to the needs of modern women if it is to stop them leaving in their droves.

She believes many women have been put off going to church in recent years because of the influence of feminism, which challenged the traditional Christian view of women’s roles and raised their aspirations.

Her report claims they feel forced out of the church because of its “silence” about sexual desire and activity, and because of its hostility to single-parent families and unmarried couples which are now a reality for many women.

But it also says changes in women’s working lives, with many more now pursuing careers as well as raising children, mean they have less time to attend church.

Dr Aune believes churches must now introduce services and activities that fit in better with modern’s women’s schedules, such as Saturday morning breakfast clubs.

She said: “Gone are the days when the mother was at home during the day and had time to visit the church’s coffee mornings and mother and toddler groups.

“With the pressures women face, churches must adapt to make themselves more accessible.”

Christina Rees, chairman of the pro-women bishop campaign group Watch, said the report highlighted the damaging effect that traditionalist attitudes within the Church of England are having on women.

She added that the introduction of female bishops will lead to a renewed interest in the church among young people and women in particular, despite the opposition to the historic step from Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals who believe scripture and tradition teach that bishops must be male.

Ms Rees told The Daily Telegraph: “What this research reveals is that a lot of people are put off by traditional stances and attitudes. We still have a long way to go before women, particularly young women, feel as included in the church as men do.

“I’m absolutely convinced that when we have women as bishops that it will send out a very clear message that women are as valued as much as men.”

The Church of England declined to comment.