Brett Kavanaugh’s swearing-in as an associate justice to the US Supreme Court has put into perspective the effectiveness of the legal system when it comes to sexual assault. Littered with loopholes, dominated by men and run by a President of dubious character, the United States’ judicial structure has shown exactly how men in power are insulated from questions on their integrity.
On July 10th, President Donald Trump nominated Mr.Kavanaugh, a former federal appeals court judge and adviser to George W. Bush, for a position in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Kavanaugh’s previously untarnished image was shaken when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of having sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the 1980s. These claims were made via a letter to Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat in the Senate Judiciary Committee-a body in-charge of overseeing all federal court nominations.
Following the accusations, a hearing was fixed for both parties to testify on September 27. The New Yorker revealed in the interim that a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, had come forward with allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh as well. On September 26, just before the official testimony was to take place, Julie Swetnick also stated that she had witnessed Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend take advantage of inebriated girls.
Here the bone of contention is not Mr. Kavanaugh’s rise to power but the inability of the judicial system to weed out inappropriate candidates.
These turn of events and the subsequent hearing wherein Ms. Ford testified against Mr. Kavanaugh (who categorically denied all claims), were just a roadblock on the way for Mr. Kavanaugh to reach the apex court of the most romanticised free nation in the world. Here the bone of contention is not Mr. Kavanaugh’s rise to power but the inability of the judicial system to weed out inappropriate candidates, presidential backing provided to Mr. Kavanaugh and the silencing of women’s voices.
Setting A Precedent?
The #MeToo movement created a paradigm shift in the way sexual assault and misconduct is looked at within the US and across the world. The 2017 movement had been successful in initiating radical changes with the way sexual assault has been perceived. It also galvanised women’s voices since they were encouraged to speak out despite the lapse in time and the position of their assaulter. A MeToo bill was also proposed within the US Congress in 2018.
Amidst this positive atmosphere of a recognition of the mental trauma that victims of assault go through (that renders them incapable of calling out the perpetrator instantly), the allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The three women who have come forward with their sordid tales of harassment have been interrogated by the media and the Republicans for their delayed response against Kavanaugh. They have termed these accusations as a smearing campaign.
Male judges making or breaking the career of a fellow male judge belonging to the same political party reeks too much conflict of interest.
I am not attempting to pass judgement on whether or not the allegations are true, but the fact that not one but three civilian women have made these claims has been completely overridden by the Republicans’ view of these being false accusations. Is there such a dearth of candidature that someone whose integrity has been probed cannot be replaced and withdrawn from the race? Is this a precedent that the US setting to quell the voices rising out of the silenced victims?
Mr. Kavanaugh has been known for his conservative stance on several issues such as gun and sexual violence. He is an invaluable resource to the Republicans, especially the anti-abortion Christian conservatives, who would have the power to take instrumental decisions. According to The Guardian, he would now be able to make judgements on issues of abortion, civil rights, and the extent of presidential power. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that despite the widespread backlash against Mr. Kavanaugh’s continued participation in the race to the Supreme Court, President Trump continued to call the sexual assault claims against him “very unfair”.
The Senate Judiciary Committee that undertook the trial against Mr. Kavanaugh consists of both Republican and Democrat members. The catch here is that a majority of the Republicans on the body are male. The gender disparity threatened the foundation of the outcome of the hearing and so a female attorney was appointed to question Mr. Kavanaugh and Ms. Ford. Male judges making or breaking the career of a fellow male judge belonging to the same political party reeks too much conflict of interest.
No Shame, Only Gain
The claims against Mr. Kavanaugh have also been backed by evidence not coming from the victims themselves. His high school and Yale fraternity days have been unearthed by the media. Mr. Kavanaugh’s history shows that he and his friends were very much complicit in adolescent eve-teasing. This coupled with the atmosphere fostered by his fraternity at Yale, Delta Kappa Epsilon, adds weightage to the case against him.
Despite the uncovering of a history such as this, Mr. Kavanaugh has taken up his position at the Supreme Court as of October 6. If the judiciary itself turns a blind eye towards these developments then what recourse is left for the common man to pursue? The appointment of a suspected sexual assaulter to the apex court and his conservative stance on the rights of a woman towards her own body is a double-edged sword that may obstruct the flow of justice.
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