Men behaving badly

3 mins read

Cyprus hasn’t moved too far down the diversity road, with gender equality also proving problematic, while sexual identity is another unspoken sensitive issue.

I’m not sure what counts for sex education in school, but if the government acquiesces in approval from the Church, it’s unlikely to explore sexuality or teenage angst but less radical chicken-and-the-egg stuff.

It’s hard to judge if we are a tolerant society that is not quick to judge those who behave or look differently and believes we are safe in our ignorance.

There doesn’t seem to be much open debate on institutional racism, misogyny and so-called ‘gay bashing’.

It only comes up for public discussion or media scrutiny when we see the ugly side of a society that has learnt to despise, dominate or ridicule those on the margins or neglected by the establishment.

Anti-migrant protests that flared up in Paphos and Limassol were not simply spontaneous events but fermented by the divisive language of politicians about being overwhelmed by unwanted foreigners.

A steep surge in illegal migration caught the government off guard, but instead of taking action to resolve the asylum backlog, it gave the message it had lost control.

The previous administration showed it was tough on migrants by rolling out a wall of barbed wire across the ceasefire line to deter those coming from the occupied north.

True, Cyprus does have a problem with irregular migration, which it is trying to tackle in a more constructive manner than using inflammatory language that triggers unrest.

But there are other areas where the language of discourse is tainted with the poison of intolerance, bullying and abuse.

We have many commissioners supposedly protecting our rights, privacy and access to justice.

They only seem to come alive when it’s time to celebrate the International Day for children, the environment or gender equality.

Few go out of their way to show initiative or take the lead to rattle society out of its slumber to highlight wrongdoing.

As the cabinet is male-dominated, the President usually saves a commissioner posting for a woman to placate criticism of sexism or patriarchy on steroids.

Of course, Cyprus is nothing like that; women are given every opportunity, but just enough so they don’t complain about glass ceilings.

A few are let into the inner sanctum of power and influence; the rest are told they failed the exam, which was rigged from the beginning.

The stats don’t lie on the Gender Equality Index, where Cyprus is among the also-rans.

Usually, people get away with saying outrageous nonsense, unquestioned by the media with no counterargument, especially for officials and politicians.

Echo chamber

Basically, most media serves as an echo chamber where people like the sound of their own views.

But Gender Equality Commissioner Josie Christodoulou would not let crass comments that went unchallenged slide.

She condemned a Cypriot topflight football official’s sexist remark normalising rape culture.

In a letter to the Cyprus Sports Organisation (KOA) and the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), Christodoulou expressed her profound dismay at the “unacceptable” comments.

That she had to urge both bodies to join her in denouncing this way, out-of-line comment may be all you need to know.

As the governing body, the CFA should have been swift to censure the official who commented and take a stand against such behaviour.

Critics could argue that a male-dominated body like the CFA is too far behind the curve to oppose such conduct.

It is even more disheartening that the CFA is in charge of advancing the women’s game nationally.

To say what he did, Karmiotissa’s director of football felt he was in a safe space to espouse such dross.

It does the exact opposite of promoting women in sports and combating sexual harassment, violence, and sexism.

Many sports sites unquestioningly ran those terrible comments but shyly removed them once reality set in.

Christodoulou slammed the comment as trivialising the gravity of such acts and perpetuating gender stereotypes, whether consciously or unconsciously.

She argued that statements of this nature “promote violence and sexist behaviour”.

Although the official apologised after the backlash, his words were the product of a toxic environment towards women.

There has to be a point when it is understood that perpetuating rape culture is reprehensible, and no public arena should tolerate it.

More worryingly, we have yet to cross that bridge, which puts football and society to shame.

Not to mention how the authorities treat rape victims.