When should a woman be searched by a man?

When should a woman be subjected to an intimate search, and should this procedure ever be carried out by a man? Some appear to think it should.

You may have heard of the case of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was arrested in New York recently following an allegation of visa fraud. Whatever irregularities there may or may not be in this case, she does appear to have experienced heavy-handed treatment.

The Indian Government has complained that she was subjected to what it says was a humiliating strip search. This is par for the course for those processed by the penal system, and indeed by the police, if only to cover their own backs. If a suspect takes a drug overdose or commits some other act of self-harm while in custody, heads will roll.

If the treatment of Dr Khobragade was over the top, ordinary Americans and tourists have to endure much the same when they fly.

The TSA and the Neanderthals (of both sexes) who work for it have caused a furore over the past couple of years; you can find some of their antics on YouTube, including what amount to sexual assaults on children. Now, at last, there are signs that the police in at least one city have decided enough is enough. Earlier this month it was reported that a mother who was escorting her teenage daughter had filed a report with Denver Police, and for once the police are looking into it. Jamelyn Steenhoek spoke to CBS4 about the incident.

Bad though this case was, at least Mrs Steenhoek was searched by a woman. What is arguably the most outrageous abuse of power in connection with an intimate search occurred not at an airport but in a courtroom, and a civil courtroom at that. This happened in August 2011, but the video was released only last year, and the legal proceedings relating to it appear to be ongoing.

Nevada mother Monica Contreras was in court with her young daughter. The other party, her estranged husband (whose hearing it was) failed to turn up, so the application was dismissed, but for some reason best known only to himself, court marshall Ron Fox decided she needed to be subjected to a random drug search. Which was done by a female court official, right? Guess again. Fox led her to a side room where she alleges he sexually assaulted her. Then, Fox decided to arrest her for making a “false” allegation against an officer, and she was ordered to revoke it. When she refused, she was handcuffed and led away, Fox acting as judge, jury and executioner. Meanwhile, the real judge – a woman – who was in the courtroom, looked the other way. Here is the video.

Whatever his intentions, Fox was clearly in the wrong and then some, and just as clearly, this young woman felt she had been personally violated.

In this case at least the authorities did eventually act, and Fox was fired. Guess what happened next? Fox brought an action against his employer for wrongful dismissal, and that appears to be where we are at present. The last report concerning this case is from October.

Clearly a woman or young girl should be examined by a male officer only in extreme circumstances, which should mean in practice not outside of a war zone or some equivalent civil disaster.

[The above op-ed was published originally on January 29, 2014. The judge, Patricia Doninger, was sacked on June 14, 2013. Monica Contreras sued and settled for $200,000.]

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