Dmitry Peskov: What do you call a woman who sleeps with a man for $10m?
Vladimir Putins spokesman has described Hollywood actors who alleged they were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein as prostitutes, suggesting they should have spoken out earlier.
Dmitry Peskovs comments, made during a discussion panel at a Moscow university, came in response to a question about Russian MP Leonid Slutsky, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, prompting a public debate and comparisons with the Weinstein scandal.
Peskov said if the allegations against Slutsky were true, the women should have spoken out sooner, and suggested the claims could have been made now because sexual harassment had become fashionable.
If he groped you, if he harassed you, why did you remain silent? Why didnt you go to the police? Peskov asked, echoing a widespread sentiment in Russia over the allegations.
Peskov said the case reminded him of the situation surrounding Weinstein. Maybe hes a scumbag, but nobody went to the police and said Weinstein raped me. No, they wanted to earn $10m. What do you call a woman who sleeps with a man for $10m? Maybe Im being crude, but shes called a prostitute.
More than 50 women have accused Weinstein of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape, including a number of well-known Hollywood actors. Weinstein is alleged to have employed private investigators and legal threats to discredit and intimidate his accusers and stop them from going public with sexual misconduct claims.
Several Russian journalists have accused Slutsky of inappropriate behaviour, and one has an audio recording of an interchange during which the MP made inappropriate comments and allegedly groped her.
In Russia, sexual harassment is often dismissed as harmless banter, and last week, the Dumas ethics committee cleared Slutsky of wrongdoing. A leaked transcript of the hearing revealed that the MPs treated two of Slutskys accusers who appeared in person at the hearing with disdain. It was also suggested that the women themselves could be at fault.
Vladimir Pozdnyakov, a Communist party MP who sits on the Dumas ethics committee, later said the women may have provoked attention by the way they were dressed or behaved.
I can see for myself if a woman is available or not, Pozdnyakov told the Russian website lenta.ru. I notice their haircut, and jewellery and clothes how she tried to look. As men, we can feel this.
While such attitudes are widespread in Russia, there are also signs that the mood may be slowly changing, and the Slutsky case has provoked public outrage. His accusers have received support from unexpected quarters, including foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who said Slutsky also behaved inappropriately with her.
Since the ethics committee cleared Slutsky, more than 20 Russian media outlets have announced they will boycott coverage of the Duma until Slutskys mandate is revoked.
The younger generation dont believe this nonsense that harassment is a normal part of relations, said womens rights campaigner Alena Popova. The norms are changing across the world and they are starting to change in Russia, too.
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