Latest update: 09/03/2012
Cambridge students protest Strauss-Kahn invite
Disgraced French politician Dominique Strauss Kahn, accused of numerous predatory sexual attacks against women, is due to address the UK’s famed Cambridge University Union Society Friday, prompting an outcry from female students.
Female students at the UK’s prestigious Cambridge University are protesting disgraced former IMF boss Dominique Strauss Kahn’s invitation to address the university’s Union Society on Friday, one day after International Women’s Day.
The Cambridge University Student’s Union Women’s Campaign has collected more than 800 signatures calling for Strauss-Kahn, known in France as DSK, to be “disinvited” from the Union Society (known simply as “the Union”).
Strauss Kahn was arrested in May 2011 and charged with an alleged sexual assault against Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid at the Manhattan Sofitel where the then-IMF chief was staying.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, but it was too late for Strauss Kahn to put himself forward for the nomination to be the Socialist candidate in the forthcoming French presidential election as he was widely expected to.
On his return to France, Strauss Kahn also faced charges of sexually assaulting writer Tristane Banon in 2002. These charges were also dropped because of the time that had elapsed between the alleged offence and the time it took to get the case in front of French judges.
In an open letter to the university’s student newspaper Varsity, the Women’s Campaign accused the Union of ruthless self-promotion by inviting such a controversial guest speaker.
“We believe that free speech is about more than inviting rich, white, powerful (in this case allegedly rapist) men to define the Union's term card,” the letter says.
It continues: “Dominique Strauss-Kahn has not been acquitted of any of the multiple accusations of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault that have been levelled against him.
“In the case of Nafissatou Diallo, he benefitted from a concerted media character assassination of the woman; in the case of Tristane Banon, he escaped only because of a French statute of limitations which prevented the charge of sexual assault being brought.”
US lawyer Douglas Wigdor, representing Diallo in her ongoing civil case against Strauss Kahn, was due in Cambridge on Friday to discuss his case with students ahead of a planned protest at Strauss Kahn’s Union appearance.
“I was really stunned that such a prestigious institution as the Cambridge Union would let itself be used by Strauss-Kahn's (public relations) team to resurrect his image," Wigdor, who holds a Masters degree from Oxford, told Reuters on Tuesday. .
Cambridge Union President Katie Lamb was contacted by FRANCE 24 on Thursday, but no comment was received before this article was published.
However, she told Varsity in an “exclusive interview” that she understood the Women’s Campaign’s right to express an opinion, but insisted that the Union was promoting free speech.
“Being invited to the Union does not imply support, endorsement or agreement,” she told the newspaper. “We hear from a huge range of people with a vast range of views.”
Previously, the Union has held debates on a wide range of subjects, including one, titled “This house believes pornography does a good public service” – which came under criticism for inviting porn stars to speak in defence of the industry.