Sexual Harassment – Recreation or Crime in Pakistan?
Ours is a male dominated society no matter what anyone says or believes. A working woman in many instances finds her male colleagues harassing her in different ways. They can be eyeing her from a distance, trying to touch her in a way that it doesn’t look awkward or just make her life miserable by using position as a boss. There are others who stand too close to them, making them uncomfortable while some share vulgar jokes via SMS and emails to stand out from the rest.
That is Pakistan for you, the only South Asian country where sexual harassment is a crime as per the constitution. Be it working in a restaurant, a multinational organization, an advertising agency or in a newspaper, women are usually the butt of jokes. The problem is deep-rooted and nearly every third man working with women considers it a form of recreation rather than a crime. In fact, when a victim does speak out against the menace, the focus falls on her conduct, her appearance and the way she carried herself rather than on the aggressor, his shameless attitude as well as his previous indulgences.
So why are women tormented in work places in Pakistan? There are many reasons but the most common is the fact that male colleagues feel that their female counterpart is working because she needs to work for her family. That’s a misconception because not only have women been snatching the top positions from men in school and college examinations, they have also been found saner than men who tend to get hyper when pressurized. They bring the female perspective to matters which gives an added advantage to the employers as well, making the environment competitive.
From being a TV news anchor, to the head of the State Bank, the head of a multinational company to being the Prime Minister of Pakistan, women have played an important role in the development of Pakistan as a nation. The mother of Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar and Maulana Shaukat Ali is credited as being the driving force behind her dynamic sons. Similarly, the mother of Mohammad brothers gave Pakistan the first family of cricket which was led by Hanif Mohammad and featured greats like Wazir Mohammad, Sadiq Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad and Shoaib Mohammad. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto gave women their First Women Bank which highlights the vision the martyred leader had for women in the country.
Last year, a teacher was suspended on charges of sexually harassing students at the University of Peshawar, a historic achievement for women’s rights activists. But has it stopped women from getting harassed at the hands of their male colleagues? Have women started feeling safe in the male-dominated society? Has the sexual harassment bill made lechers afraid of being caught? No because no one trusts the police that is supposed to protect us – both men and women. The day females will feel safe going to report a harassment case, will be the day men will be afraid of their growing sexual desires, the day when every working woman will get the respect she deserves, and that will be a historic day for the Pakistani women.
We may have the women police to assist the fairer sex but they still have a long way to go. We may have organizations where sexual harassment is treated as a crime but no one reports the offender who usually has an important position in the hierarchy.
A couple of years back, a severely-injured 22-year-old nursing student at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre in Karachi filed a report against a doctor who wanted to rape her. It could have been a revolutionary case for the cause of women but nothing happened and women are being still harassed by teachers and seniors, and some are even coerced into trading sexual favours for grades as well as promotions.
So why doesn’t anyone put an end to this menace? Sexual Harassment is a deep-rooted issue in the country that needs constant attention and demands secrecy. Despite the presence of legal and institutional mechanisms present, implementing the laws remains a challenge. It will take more than just passing a law to save the women because until the necessary steps are taken, a women will feel unsafe in our male-dominated society.