Could 'Pence Rule' Help Prevent Sexual Harassment?

      July 22, 2020 08:47

      The sexual misconduct accusations against late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon have renewed focus on the outlandish gender segregation practiced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

      The eponymous "Pence Rule" states that the pious vice president will never eat alone with a woman other than his wife and will not attend functions featuring alcohol without her by his side.

      Some companies here have adopted the Pence Rule to guard against endemic sexual harassment in the workplace and enforced after-work drinking sessions, but it is not only men who complain that this was a panic reaction to the "Me Too" movement.

      Women have in some cases borne the brunt because their male bosses excluded them from any office socializing or simply fired them to avoid temptation or false accusations.

      The drastic measure has even found its way into government offices.

      Gimje Mayor Park Joon-bae in North Jeolla Province has replaced all female staff in his office with men and, in a decision reminiscent of darkest Saudi Arabia, female civil servants in the city must now be accompanied by a male guardian when meeting with the mayor.

      Many women are furious to be patronized in this way. One 28-year-old female office worker in Bucheon west of Seoul said, "If the Pence Rule is justified, there is another solution: fill all high-ranking posts with women. I get really angry when people think that the gender of the victim is the problem that must be eradicated."

      One 25-year-old corporate secretary said, "This incident was clearly caused by the former mayor's mistakes and it is appalling that others are trying to pin the blame on the very existence of female temptation."

      Other politicians here have discussed the Pence Rule, but the outcome has been ambivalent. In Mach 2018, the government said that excluding female workers citing the Pence Rule violates equal opportunities regulations. The National Assembly tabled two bills aimed at ensuring that women do not suffer discrimination in hiring due to their gender, but they failed to pass.

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